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Introduction The beginning of this century hailed a new paradigm in linguistics, the paradigm brought about by de Saussure's Cours de Linguistique Genérále and subsequently elaborated by Jakobson, Hjelmslev and other linguists. It seemed that the linguistics of this century was destined to be structuralistic. However, half of the century later a brand new paradigm was introduced by Chomsky's Syntactic Structures followed by Montague's formalization of semantics. This new turn has brought linguistics surprisingly close to mathematics and logic, and has facilitated a direct practical exploitation of linguistic theory by computer science. One of the claims of this paper is that the post-Saussurian structuralism, both in linguistics and in philosophy, is partly based on ideas quite alien to de Saussure. The main aim then is to explain the ideas driving the formalistic turn of linguistics and to investigate the problem of the extent to which they can be accommodated within the framework of the Saussurian paradigm. The main thesis advocated is that the point of than using formalisms and in that linguistics it can is be more well methodological Saussure. substantial
accommodated within the conceptual framework posited by de
1 De Saussure vs. Structuralism Before beginning to discuss structuralism, let us stress the distinction between the genuine views of Ferdinand de Saussure and the teachings of his various avowed followers, be they linguists or philosophers. In fact, de Saussure's theory, as presented in his Course, is an austere and utterly rational scientific theory articulated with a rigour commonly associated with linguistic theories of the 'postChomskian' period, though differing from them by the absence of formalisms. Many of the de Saussure's followers tried to turn his approach into something quite different: into a tool of questioning scientific rationalism overemphasizing the "literary" aspect of language. This is true particularly of French philosophers who used the structural insight to fight the analytic approach of their AngloAmerican colleagues. It is beyond doubt that French structuralism constitutes one of the most significant philosophical movements of this century; however, its affiliation to de Saussure is an intricate matter. These philosophers have eagerly reassumed the view of language as a self-contained phenomenon to be explained by an appeal to its intrinsic properties; however, they have almost completely ignored other aspects of de Saussure's approach to language, notably his calm scientific rigour.1 Linguists such as Jakobson and Hjelmslev, of course, remained far more faithful to the teaching of their predecessor, but they failed to
match his rigour. Thus Hjelmslev's theory, although guided by the promising goal of finding "the system beyond the process" and "the constancy beyond the variability",2 is overloaded with more or less mysterious concepts which he is not willing to make sufficiently precise; and Jakobson, although on the one hand ready for such exquisitely "Saussurian" claims as "if topology is defined as the study of those qualitative properties which are invariant under isomorphic transformations, this is exactly what we did in structural linguistics"3, on the other hand considers theory of language to be akin to literary criticism and claims that "only as a poetry is language essential"4.
2 De Saussure de-mythicized In what sense then was de Saussure himself a structuralist? Structuralism, as developed by de Saussure, consists in viewing abstract linguistic objects (especially meanings, but everything that he calls linguistic reality) as values of elements of the system of the expressions that make up language. Let us explain this in detail5. First, let us notice that to speak about a structure is possible only there where it is possible to speak about parts and wholes. Indeed: structure is the way of organizing parts into a whole. So to base one's theory of language on the concept of structure presupposes viewing language as a part-whole system. Let us stress that the notion of a part-whole structure of language may be far from trivial. Expressions are indeed strings of words and as such they consist of substrings (thus John loves Mary consists of John loves and Mary, or of John and loves Mary, or of John and
loves and Mary), but this trivial part-whole structuring is not what linguistics is about. Besides it there is another, nontrivial partwhole structure which can be imposed on the class of expressions of language and which stems from centuries of investigations by grammarians. According to this notion John loves Mary consists of John and to love Mary, or of John, to love and Mary, where loves is considered to be only a kind of "form" (or a "manifestation") of to love. Let us further notice that to speak about a structure is necessary only there where two different wholes may consist of the same parts. Indeed, structure then is what makes the difference. Otherwise there is no reason for not considering all wholes as having the same structure. We saw that the sentences John loves Mary and Mary loves John can be considered as consisting of the same parts. But these two sentences are different, and hence there must be something which makes them so; and it is this something that is addressed as their structure. The part-whole view of language implies the perceiving of expressions as building-blocks, as constituents of more complex expressions, the ultimate wholes being sentences. (Sentences themselves can thus be viewed both as complete wholes and as blocks used to build more complex wholes.) Any block is suitable for some ways of building some wholes, and not suitable for other ways and other wholes; and the situation may arise in which the usability of two blocks coincides. This is the case when using one of the blocks instead of the other leads always to the result which we consider equivalent to the original one. (If we build houses and equate all
houses of the same shape, i.e., differing only in colour, then we thereby equate also all bricks differing only in colour.) This is to say that considering some wholes equivalent engenders our also taking some blocks to have equal values. Hence every equivalence on the class of expressions of language induces an assignment of values to expressions. The concept of equivalence, or, in de Saussure's term, identity, is thus interdependent with the concept of value. This is de Saussure's (1931, p.110) claim that "the notion of identity blends with that of a value and vice versa." Now, roughly speaking, the main claim of de Saussure's is that all the abstract entities associated with expressions can be considered as values and hence as certain "spin-offs" (using the term as used by Quine) of certain equivalences of (or oppositions, equivalences). which are complements
3 Chomsky, Montague and Formal Semantics Chomsky's path-breaking theory occasioned the reconstruction of language as a formal algebraic structure. Chomsky proposed to account for a language via a set of formal generative rules, the recursive application of which to a given initial symbol generates all and only syntactically well-formed sentences of the language. The notion of natural language as a bundle of rules is clearly nothing new. In fact, the very idea of grammar is based on this view: to write a grammar of a given language means to articulate rules accounting for well-formedness of that language. Chomsky's novum was that he
proposed organizing the rules into a hierarchical system allowing for systematical generation, and basing all this upon setting up of the grammar as a real mathematical structure6. Such a mathematization entailed an exceptional increase of rigour and perspicuity and, moreover, it led to the development of a metatheory, investigating into the formal properties of grammars (e.g. their relative strengths). Chomsky's approach proved to be extremely fruitful in the realm of syntax, and linguists immediately tried to extend it to semantics. They attempted to generate meanings in the same way as Chomsky's theory generated surface structures. However, these attempts, be they presented as semantic markers of Katz and Postal (1964), or as generative semantics due to Lakoff (1971), in general failed to be satisfactory. The reason for this failure was diagnosed by Lewis (1972): it was the failure to account for truth conditions, which is a conditio sine qua non of semantics7. Montague, Lewis and others thefore offered a new way to account formally for semantics based on the results of formal logic. The basic idea was to treat meanings as set-theoretical objects on which expressions are mapped. The first approximation, going back to Gottlob Frege, was to reify the two truth values and to consider the meaning of a sentence to be directly its truth value. However, this approach had the unpleasant consequence that any and every pair of sentences that are either both true, or both false, are synonymous; which proves such an approach to be essentially untenable. The lesson to be learned seemed to be that the meaning of the sentence does not amount to its truth value, but rather to its truth conditions. This obstacle was resolved by introducing the concept of possible
world into semantics and this is where Montague enters the scene. (However, it is fair to stress that possible-world semantics was not discovered by Montague; he was neither the first one to use possible worlds as a tool of logical theory - the first to use them systematically were Stig Kanger and Saul Kripke - nor the only one to employ possible-worlds-based logic in an effort to formulate a systematic semantics of natural language; concurrently other theoreticians presented similar theories - at least Tichý's (1971) transparent intensional logic is surely worth mentioning. But Montague is the one who has become the legend.)8 Possible worlds were considered as the entities to which truth is relative; hence to say that the meaning of sentence was its truth conditions became to say that it was a certain function assigning truth values to possible worlds. This turned truth conditions into entities accommodable within the framework of set theory. The step from truth values to truth values relativized to possible worlds (and in general from extensions to intensions) was a good one, but not good enough. It soon became clear that even to consider every pair of sentences being true in the same possible worlds as synonymous is inadequate. Every truth of mathematics is true in every possible world; but it is surely inadequate to consider all truths of mathematics as synonymous. The solution accepted by the majority of semanticians was to consider meaning of sentence as something structured. According to an old proposal of Carnap (1957), two expressions were taken as really synonymous if they not only shared intensions, but were intensionally isomorphic, i.e. if they consisted of the same number of constituents and if their respective
constituents shared intensions; and this idea, revived by Lewis, has served to ground the "hyperintensional" semantics that became prevalent in the eighties. Lewis has proposed to consider meaning as a Chomskian tree whose leaves are occupied by intensions. His proposal has been further elaborated especially by Cresswell (1985). Other proposals to the effect of considering meaning as a structure, were articulated within the framework of situation semantics of Barwise and Perry (1983) and within that of discourse representation theory due to Kamp (1981)9. Tichý (1988) has reached the conclusion that the intension of a complex expression is constructed from the intensions of its components and has proposed to consider not the result of the construction, but rather the construction itself as meaning. The shift from functions to structures hailed a rapproachement between the theories of logically-minded semanticists operating within set theory and those of the more traditionally-minded ones using formalisms more loosely. If we free ourselves from the 'ideologies' of individual schools, we can see that the gap between Kamp's discourse representation structure or Tichý's construction, on the one side, and Chomsky's deep structure or the tectogrammatical representation of Sgall et al. (1986), on the other, need not be crucial10.
4 Language as an Algebra Now what we are claiming is that formal linguistics does not in general bring insights essentially incompatible with the structuralist
paradigm; rather, it carries out the "mathematization" of language thereby creating a framework in which the Saussurian point can appear quite intelligible. We have stated that de Saussure's approach presupposes the view of language as a part-whole structure, i.e. as a class of items (expressions) some of them consisting of others. Thus we are viewing language as a class of expressions plus a collection of operations which enable more complex expressions to be made out of simpler ones. So, for example, the class of expressions contains the expressions John, to love, Mary and John loves Mary; and among the operations there is one that makes John loves Mary out of John, to love, Mary. Now in order to state this in mathematical terms, let us present a tiny fragment of algebra. We shall restrict ourselves to three definitions, and we are not going to press for exactness; the aim of the whole enterprise is merely to illustrate the role which mathematics can play within a theory of language.
Definition 1. An algebra is an ordered pair A=<C,F>, where C is a set, called the carrier of A; and F=<Fj>jÎJ is a family of functions, called the operations of A, each of which maps the Cartesian power of C on C (i.e. each of which is an n-ary function on C). Definition 2. Let A=<C,<Fj>jÎJ> and A'=<C',<Fj'>jÎJ> be algebras with the same number of operations. Let G be a function from the carrier of A to that of A'. We shall say that G is a homomorphism from A to A'
if G(Fj(x1,...,xn)) = Fj'(G(x1),...,G(xn)) for every x1,...,xn from the domain of Fj and for every jÎJ. Definition 3. Let A=<C,<Fj>jÎJ> be an algebra and E an equivalence (i.e. a transitive, symmetric and reflexive binary relation) on the carrier of C. Let us call a subclass of C an E-subclass if each its two elements are equivalent according to E. Let us call an E-subclass of C maximal if it is not included in another E-subclass of C. Let C' be the class of all maximal E-subclasses of C; and for every jÎJ let F j' be the function on C' such that Fj'(y1,...,yn)=y if and only if there exist elements x1,...,xn,x of C such that x1Îy1, ... ,xnÎyn, xÎy and Fj(x1,...,xn)=x. The algebra <C',<Fj'>jÎJ> is called the factor-algebra of A according to E and it is denoted by A/E.
Using Definition 1 we can restate our previous consideration more mathematically. The consideration effectively views language as an algebra: the carrier of the algebra contains the expressions John, to love, Mary and John loves Mary; and among the operations of the algebra there is a ternary one, say Fk, such that Fk(John, to love, Mary) = John loves Mary. Chomsky's contribution was not to abolish this view, but rather to explicate it and to articulate the rules of the algebra of syntax in the rigorous mathematical way. The contribution of the semanticians can then be seen in articulating the semantic aspect of language into another, semantic algebra connected with the first one by the function of meaning assignment. The point is that if Chomsky's theory can be seen as the
reconstruction of language as the class of lexical items plus the class of grammatical rules constructing more complex expressions out of simpler ones, then Montague's contribution can be seen in mapping lexical items on certain basic set-theoretical objects and in paralleling the syntactic rules operating on expressions by rules operating on their set-theoretical meanings. Every expression E is thus supposed to be furnished with a set-theoretical meaning ||E||; the simple expressions being assigned their meanings directly, the complex ones via semantic rules. If we - for the sake of simplicity - temporally shelve possible worlds, then we can say that ||John|| and ||Mary|| are supposed to be elements of a basic set understood as the universe of discourse, ||to love|| is considered as a function assigning truth values to pairs of elements of the universe (the sentence holds true for some pairs and is false for other ones), and ||John loves Mary|| as a truth value (true or false)11. The meanings of simple expressions such as John, to love, and Mary are supposed to be given in a direct way, whereas those of complex ones like John loves Mary are considered to be "computable" out of meanings of its parts. Thus, the value ||John loves Mary|| is considered to be computable out of || John||, ||to love|| and ||Mary||; namely as ||to love||(||John||,||Mary||). In general, the meaning of a complex expression is a function of meanings of its parts. This approach thus sanctions the so called principle of compositionality, which has been considered basic for the theory of meaning since Frege. The set-theoretical meanings of lexical items plus the rules to compute the meanings of complex expressions out of their parts thus yield an algebra with the same number of operations as the algebra
of expressions. Meaning assignment then comes out as a mapping M of the algebra of expressions on the algebra of meanings such that to every operation F of the algebra of expressions there corresponds an operation F' of the algebra of meanings such that for every e 1,...,en from the domain of F it holds that M(F(e1,...,en))=F'(M(e1),...,M(en))). Hence, referring to the Definition 2, we can say that the meaning assignment is a homomorphism from the algebra of expressions to the algebra of meanings.
5 Saussure Mathematized With the help of this framework, we find that many points previously difficult to articulate, become surprisingly simple. An example is the way we have just expressed the principle of compositionality: this principle, which has been constantly subject to misunderstandings, now becomes the simple and unequivocal claim of the homomorphic character of meaning- assignment. Everybody who is familiar with the basics of algebra easily understands; a misunderstanding is hardly possible12. We have stressed that de Saussure's claim is that the meaning of an expression is its value resulting from oppositions present in the system of language. We have stressed also that the value is a reification of the way the expression functions as a building-block for building wholes suitable for various purposes, notably true sentences. Translated into our algebraic framework, the algebra of semantics owes its being to certain oppositions present within the system of
language, notably to the opposition between truth and falsity, or, which is the same, the equivalence of sameness of truth value. Algebraic theory allows us to clarify how an algebra plus an equivalence between elements of its carrier yields a new algebra: our Definition 3 articulates this in explicating the term factor algebra; it amounts to the "coalescing" of the equivalent elements of the original algebra and to the corresponding adjustment of its operations. This suggests the idea of considering the algebra of meanings as the factor algebra of the algebra of expressions factored according to the equivalence of sameness of truth value. The obvious objection to embracing this conclusion is that it leads to identifying meanings with classes of expressions, which seems to be highly implausible. However, saying that the algebra of meanings can be considered as an algebra of classes of expressions is not to say that meaning be a class of expressions - the point of the structural view is that meaning is not this or that kind of thing, that what there is to meaning is rather only the structure of the algebra of meaning. This is to say, in algebraic terms, that the algebra of meanings is definite only up to isomorphism; the factor algebra of the algebra of expressions must be seen as a mere representative of the whole class of isomorphic algebras, each of which can be considered to represent the algebra of meaning, and none of which can be directly identified with it. In fact, formal semantics can be seen as placing additional, pragmatic requirements on the algebra which is to be considered as the algebra of meanings; it endeavours to select that of the isomorphic algebras which would be the easiest to work with. In particular, it is usual to
require that the operations of the algebra of semantics be as simple as possible. Frege proposed that the meaning of a sentence should be considered as the result of application of the meaning of its predicate to those of its terms. This idea was subsequently generalized to yield the general requirement that the operators of the algebra of meaning should be operators taking as one of its arguments a function and yielding what this function yields when it is applied to the remaining arguments. This means that if F is an n-ary operator of the algebra of expressions, then there exists an i such that for every n-tuple e1,...,en of expressions from the domain of F it holds that ||F(e1,...,en)|| = ||ei||(||e1||,...,||ei1||,||ei+1||,...,||en||). The relation of an algebra supplemented by an equivalence to the corresponding factor algebra is thus the prototype of the relationship between the system of language expressions and a system of values which the expressions acquire with respect to some opposition or equivalence. Although the algebraic model, if taken literally, might lead to an oversimplified view of language, it evidently dramatically improves the intelligibility and comprehensibility of the Saussurian point of the value-like character of meanings and other linguistic abstracta. And, this is, in general, the true role of mathematics within a theory of language: it is neither to improve language, nor to give its precise models13. and exhaustive description, but rather to facilitate comprehensibility and intelligibility of language via confronting it with
6 Structuralism Rejoined? De Saussure's structuralistic insights invited generalization: the idea of structuralism is far more sweeping than to restrict itself to linguistic reality. The French structuralists took one direction of generalization: they snesed that natural sciences were threatening to swallow up humanities and they have ended up with philosophy as a kind of literary genre (viz Derrida). But there were other people more fascinated by, than fearful of, the sciences and they instead merged their own structuralist insight with the rigorous scientific thinking. Analytic philosophers, from Russell, Carnap and Wittgenstein to Quine and Davidson, were, of course, not influenced directly by de Saussure, but their teachings seem to be in certain aspects more congenial to the spirit of Cours de linguistique générale than the teaching of those who are usually considered as de Saussure's direct followers. And it was analytic philosophy whose advancement is inseparably interlocked with the advancement of formal semantics. I do not want to claim that analytic philosophy and formal semantics are necessarily intrinsically structuralist. The views of many analytic philosophers, and of even more formal semanticians, amount to a kind of nomenclatural view of language, which is the direct opposite of structuralism. Many analytic philosophers did not manage to resist the temptation to embrace a form of naive scientism and ended up with a kind of systematic metaphysics (now approached via language and done with the help of mathematics and set theory) which the structuralist insight vanquishes. But a significant number of these thinkers, people such as Wittgenstein, Quine or Davidson, avoided
such traps and their approach can be truly called structuralistic. Quine's (1992) recent conclusions about the concept of structure are even more radical than those of his predecessors: instead of urging the reduction of abstract objects to relations, he questions the very idea of an object: "The very notion of object, or of one and many, is indeed as parochially human as the parts of speech; to ask what reality is really like, however, apart from human categories, is selfstultifying. It is like asking how long the Nile really is, apart from parochial matters of miles and meters." (p.9) Hence aphoristically: "Save the structure and you save all." (p.8) The views close to Quine's and especially relevant for what we have been pursuing here are due to Donald Davidson - it is him who has made it clear that formal semantics need not be understood as a naively-metaphysical, nomenclatural matter and who has shown the plausibility of the theory of meaning as derivative to the theory of truth. And it is these views which we try to show to be congenial to the basic insights of de Saussure14. We have stated that the ways of analytic philosophy and structuralism essentially parted. However, their recent offspring - post-analytic philosophy and poststructuralism - are no longer antagonistic and indeed are sometimes surprisingly close. I think that the inseparability of the question about the nature of reality from the question about the nature of the language we use to cope with the reality, as urged in the above quotation by Quine, is in fact the same problem as that which irritates people like Foucault and Derrida. And I think, on the other hand, that the "careful mathematization of language" which is urged by Derrida (1972) is nothing else than the non-nomenclatural, non-
metaphysically founded usage of formal logic as pursued by Quine and Davidson15.
7 Conclusion De Saussure's structuralistic view of language is quite compatible with the formal trend of linguistics appearing during the recent decades. In fact formalization and mathematization help to make the structuralist point intelligible. Many theoreticians believe that formal semantics and analytic philosophy is connected with a nomenclatural view of language and hence is incompatible with the structural insight. But this is wrong formal semantics is in itself neutral, and it is capable of being explicated both in the naive nomenclatural way and in the way congenial to de Saussure's structuralism; and among analytic philosophers we can find outstanding representatives not only of the former, but also of the latter view.
1. There are philosophers who evaluate even more harshly the way in which French structuralists handled the heritage of de Saussure. Thus Pavel (1989, p. vii) characterizes their efforts as follows: "They mistook the results of a specialized science for a collection of speculative generalities. They believed that breathtaking metaphysical pronouncements could be inferred from simple-minded descriptive statements." (Back to text)
2. Hjelmslev (1943, p.11).(Back to text) 3. Jakobson (1971, pp. 2234).(Back to text) 4. See Holenstein (1987, p. 25).(Back to text) 5. For a more detailed expositions of the issues presented in this section see Peregrin (1994b). (Back to text) 6. Chomsky himself, of course, would consider his approach not a mere improvement of methodology, but as an empirical discovery concerning human's innate inner workings; we leave this conviction of his aside, because it is peculiar to his own line of thought and it is not essential to the formalistic turn as such.(Back to text) 7. Lewis claimed that linguistic theories of meaning are mere translations of natural language into another, formal language, namely 'markerese'. However, I think that this caveat, as it stands, is misguided: every explicit semantic theory is clearly a translation of natural language into another language, be it 'markerese', the language of set theory, or whatever. The only way to do explicit semantics is to make statements 's' means m, where m is an expression of a language.(Back to text) 8. For general information about the concept of possible world see Partee (1989); for conceptual analysis see Peregrin (1993a).(Back to text) 9. Kamp's framework aims, besides this, at capturing what can be called dynamics of language, especially its anaphoric capacities; and it slowly becomes a paradigm of the semantic theory for the nineties. (Back to text) 10. This point was made quite clear by Davidson (1984, p.30): "Philosophers of a logical bent have tended to start where the theory was and work out towards the complications of natural language. Contemporary linguists, with an aim that cannot easily be seen to be different, start with the ordinary and work toward a general theory. If either party is successful, there must be a meeting."(Back to text) 11. Taking the intensional aspect of language at face value, we have to relativize all of this to possible worlds: the denotations of ||John|| and ||Mary|| (if we do not treat them as rigid, i.e. possible-worlds-independent, designators) will be functions from possible worlds to the universe, ||to love|| a function from possible worlds to pairs of elements of the universe, and ||John loves
Mary|| will be a function from possible worlds to truth values: in some worlds (situations, timespans etc. the sentence holds true, in other worlds it does not.(Back to text) 12. The objection that such an explication is simple only due to the backlog of the complicated theory of algebra, is not sound - algebra is nothing ad hoc, it is a well established theory whose meaningfullness is independent of whether we do or do not use it within a theory of language. (Back to text) 13. See Peregrin (1993b).(Back to text) 14. For Davidson's way of understanding semantic theory see Davidson (1984); see also Peregrin (1994a).(Back to text) 15. The recent philosophical development of Richard Rorty documents that these two seemingly disparate approaches to philosophy could lead to a unified stance.(Back to text)
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Derrida, Saussure and Meaning Olwen McNamara Question: What do you get when you cross Derrida with a member of the Mafia? Answer: Someone making you an offer you can't understand, or refuse!
(adopted and adapted from Pimm 1991) There are times when I feel that deconstruction positions me in just such a predicament. Like Heller's Captain Yossarian for whom the very act of declaring himself insane infuriatingly but indisputably proved his sanity; my attempts to challenge Derrida's notions can sometimes leave me feeling as if I am tacitly confirming their veracity. When, for example, I challenge the suggestion that interpretations are multiple, or meaning infinitely deferred, I am left with the uncomfortable sensation that the interpretation may not have been uniquely apprehendable. That I was, in fact, as Derrida would caution, simply indoctrinated into believing this to be case by the subtle and innocuously regulating effect of the structures in the text. Dare I be seen to display such naivete and lack of insight in Chreods?? Probably not! Neither, I suspect, is it fashionable to subject Derrida's ideas to rational critique. There is a sense in which it appears naff and prosaic to do so; the impression created is that Derrida's 'project' is above and beyond such pedestrian logical analysis. Derrida's most influential ideas on literary criticism however do seem to me to be based upon fairly routine, albeit extremely insightful, notions of language and meaning which, in turn, are broadly located in, and developed from, Saussurian linguistics. Nevertheless Derrida appears to display a somewhat ambivalent attitude to Saussure; on the one hand he justifies many of his positions with reference to Saussure, adopting and adapting numerous of his terms, whilst on the other hand, he occasionally vilifies him. The Derrida/Saussure interface appears to me one possible way to penetrate Derrida's undefinable, or ill-defined, notions. Thus the act of inspecting Derrida's ideas of language and meaning in relation to those of Saussure may perhaps enable me to clarify certain rather obscure issues. Derrida's deconstructionist project originated in France in the mid 1970's in part as a consequence, perhaps, of an inevitable reaction to a repressive academic and intellectual system which rigidly administered a unique and definitive interpretation of literary texts (Ellis 1989 p. 84). For Derrida there was of course "nothing outside of the text" (1976 p. 158) and focusing on textual analysis, he derided what he perceived as the controlling effect of its structure upon interpretation. Derrida wanted, not simply to reverse, but to challenge from within, the centring of meaning offered by the binary oppositions through which structuralist thinkers of the post-war period had claimed to uncover hidden meaning in language. Levi-Strauss, for example,
attempted to analyse what he claimed were binary oppositions structuring the narratives of ancient societies. The myth was developed in the mind of the individual but it was, in essence, already in his mind as a concealed signifying system through which he generated his world view. Derrida reasserted and developed strands central to Saussurian linguistics based on relations and differences. He advocated the analysis of linguistic form as a system of pure values, where the value of each sign is entirely dependent upon the system within which it is cited. Whereas Saussure would maintain a distinction between objects of the world, which may have a natural value (linked perhaps to the economy), and language, where words have only a conventionally associated value (and that in the moment only); Derrida does not, he accepts no arbiter or reference external to language. This marks quite an important point of departure for the deconstructionist discourse and as a consequence objects, words and their meaning and indeed the world, are produced in the play of differences. Tompkins, a fervent advocate of deconstruction, observes There is then no difference between language and objects because objects are at play in a system of differences too.... The sign, the thing that is articulated by the system of differences, is all that there is, and, therefore, language is not secondary, is not provisional, is not just marking time or keeping place until the thing itself arrives because things themselves are linguistically constituted. And the world itself is discourse. (Tompkins 1988 p. 144) Words for Saussure are not, of course, labels which have come to be attached to things already comprehended independently; they supply the conceptual frameworks for man's analysis of reality and also the linguistic framework for his description of it. Saussure's model of a linguistic sign is of a "two?sided psychological entity" (Saussure 1983 p. 99), comprising the meaning of the word, or associated concept, together with (and inseparable from) its sound image. He uses the analogy of two sides of a piece of paper to illustrate the bond. A language might also be compared to a sheet of paper. Thought is one side of the sheet and sound the reverse side. Just as it is impossible to take a pair of scissors and cut one side of the paper without at the same time cutting the other, so it is impossible in a language to isolate sound from thought, or thought from sound.... Linguistics, then operates along this margin, where
sound and thought meet. The contact between them gives rise to a form, not a substance.(Saussure 1983 p. 157, italics in original) Saussure asserted the bipartite nature of the sign and avoided including the referent, as in a typical tripartite relationship; this does not, I think, indicate that he is equivocal about the existence of anything external to that relationship. His belief was not that the referent was indistinguishable from the linguistic state but that terms internal to the linguistic system defined each other uniquely, by contrast and comparison, without regard to the referent. If I am angry or hot there are a plethora of terms which I can use to describe how I feel, each one limiting the range of applicability of the others. This does not imply, however, that my temperament or temperature is a quality of the linguistic state; it is not, there is a commonlyunderstood, real perceptible and measurable difference between cold, warm and hot. The fact that there are a range of words associated with the concept of temperature does not, I believe, indicate that meaning can slip freely between them. In fact I would argue that the presence of so many related terms actually limits, rather than extends, the flexibility of the interpretation. Derrida I think develops his pivotal system of differences from a reinterpretation of Saussure's central tenet that "... in language there are only differences, and no positive terms" (ibid p. 166). Saussure had proposed that the value of a sign was produced, in part, by its syntagmatic relations with other signs that surrounded it in acts of speech. In part also, by psychological associations within mnemonic groups, terms that could be used to replace, contrast with or combine with the sign. Whereas Saussure's analysis built upon consideration of specific differences and identities between a particular sign and other signs to which it was directly related; Derrida's reinterpretation of Saussure's ideas allowed for any comparison to be made. Association was endorsed between any signs in an endless chain of signification, there was to be free play of differences! The deconstructionist model, it seems to me, posits at least two axes of slippage: one within the sign and one between signs. For Saussure the two? sided entity appears firmly bonded; although he does speak of the arbitrariness of the sign making it both more variable and more invariable over time (diachronically). Indeed because the sign is arbitrary there is both no reason to change it and no reason not to change it. Hence for Saussure the sign is synchronically invariable, whereas for Derrida, owing to the "indefinite referral of signifier to signified" (Derrida 1978 p. 25), the sign is
in a constant state of flux. Derrida then, with a magic pair of scissors, cuts along the margin of thought and sound in a way which Saussure thought impossible. Meaning is asserted to be no longer possible in the moment, which Derrida regards to be as a result of the absence of the "transcendental signified": since this original signified or 'true' meaning is not present the chain of signification continues endlessly. The absence of the transcendental signified is also a factor in Derrida's rejection of logocentrism, a term which he uses to characterise what seems to be a sort of linguistic metaphysical realism: a belief that spoken words faithfully represent objects, concepts and meanings in the real world. Derrida's inference seems to be that knowledge of the world is inevitably mediated. This is an idea which has been expounded in various ways by many philosophers and linguists over the last 300 years. Saussure considered that "it is the viewpoint adopted that creates the object". The anthropological linguists Sapir and Whorf, famous for their ideas on linguistic determinism, believed that language determines not only the way we think about things but also what we think about them. Derrida develops his position with regard to the transcendental signified by claiming that On the contrary, though, from the moment that one questions the possibility of such a transcendental signified, and that one recognises that every signified is also in the position of a signifier, the distinction between signified and signifier becomes problematical at its root. (Derrida 1981 p. 43) Derrida appropriates Saussure's terms signifier and signified but extends the function of the signified to embrace the role of signifier in another act of signification. Thus the signification process, if extended outward in this manner, would presumably eventually encompass "the world itself [as] discourse" (Tompkins 1988). Clearly the "distinction between signified and signifier" will, as Derrida foresees, become "problematical". The second axis of slippage I identify is in between signs and also through time. The French verb 'differer' has two meanings which in English correspond to two distinct terms, 'differ' and 'defer'. Derrida, I think, uses this catalyst to extend Saussure's notion of 'difference', which in its nominative form means only, 'to differ from'. He invents a new French word, 'differance', which is to encompass the meaning absent from 'difference', that is 'to defer'. Derrida claims,
Now the word difference (with an e) can never refer either to differer as temporisation or to differends as polemos. Thus the word differance (with an a) is to compensate ? economically ? this loss of meaning, for differance can refer simultaneously to the entire configuration of its meanings. (Derrida 1982 p. 8) In this way Derrida extends the meaning of differences to indicate the dependence on a chain of linguistic terms, or "a field of infinite substitutions" (Derrida 1978 p. 25) that can always be extended, reviewed or recontextualised. Meaning for Derrida is never in the present, it emerges from the play of 'differances' between the various terms in the text: subject to continuous reframing, within ongoing discursive activity. The play on the word 'differences' is one of Derrida's most celebrated messages, it also demonstrates to Derrida that "there is no phonetic writing": the replacement of 'a' for 'e' cannot be heard in the pronunciation. He says ... this graphic difference (a instead of e), this marked difference between two apparently vocal notations, between two vowels, remains purely graphic: it is read, or it is written, but it cannot be heard. (Derrida 1982 p. 3) It is significant to Derrida who believes that writing both, "precedes and follows speech, it comprehends it" (1976 p. 238). This is a position which is historically difficult to defend as not all languages have a written form. It is important for Derrida, however, to support his critique of ethnocentrism which he sees as epitomised in what he interprets as the predilection of the Western world, and especially Saussure, to privilege speech over writing. Saussure's interpretation of history was somewhat different; although he clearly did privilege speech over writing he considered that historically the Western world had privileged writing over speech, perhaps because of its permanence and the status which literature held in developed civilisations. It was this stance, the one which Derrida now adopts, which to Saussure's mind was 'ethnocentric' since it necessarily focused attention on developed cultures with an extensive tradition of writing, and ignored the rest. Derrida enforces a way of looking at literature, and indeed life, that sees it as a stream of self?referential structureless awarenesses. His redefinition of terms extends the notion of text to include all that is humanly perceived and he concludes that truth, meaning and understanding are impossible.
Tompkins (1988), is perhaps characteristic of many deconstructionist accounts, she believes that The significance of post?structuralist model is that it collapses... into a single, continuous act of interpretation ... subject, method, object, interpretation ? all are part of a single evolving field of discourse. (Tompkins 1988 p. 733) Her thesis is that the reader cannot apply an analysis to a text because she or he is inextricably bound into the interpretative system. Tompkins, however, proceeds to give a highly explicit five page exposition of exactly what Derrida mean by differance in literary analysis. Although not myself particularly well versed in literary criticism, the analysis does appear very conventional in that it appears to regard, and refer separately to, the author and his intentions on infinitely many occasions in a very positive manner. Further, Tompkins appears to regard the text, and its interpretation, as very much belonging to the author, rather than being her personal construct. It seems that Derrida is no more reflexive in his exchanges, Ellis notes that during a dispute between Searle and Derrida, the latter remarked on a number of occasions that Searle had misunderstood him and misstated his views, even adding at one point that what he, Derrida, had meant should have been clear enough and obvious to Searle. (Ellis 1989 p. 13) Derrida's response to Searle's critique appears a little hypocritical, to say the least, when measured against the deconstructionist's views on text and the author. In his structural analysis Derrida attempts to achieve a penetrating interpretation of the text as a totally independent entity. Introducing the term textuality, he challenges the opposition text/author by asserting the independence of the text. Such a reading, in effect, bestows on the reader the role of 'creator of meaning' which might formally have been thought of as the function of the author. Meaning is considered to be detached from the author and his intentions and instead dependent entirely upon the reader; it is thus no longer unique but multiple or even infinite. Most readers, I suspect, would hold the view that an interpretation of a text is achieved by a peculiar synthesis of reader and author. Further, that the differences which this synthesis illuminates are ones of emphasis rather than radically different explication. What accounts for this apparent absence of
free play in the interpretations? It could indeed be, as I have no doubt that Derrida would claim, that readers are all indoctrinated by the subtle and innocuous regulating effect of the structures in the text upon its interpretation. One plausible alternative explanation is that the analysis which led Derrida to asserting free play of meaning was completed in a void, it divorced language from its context. Ellis mounts a convincing critique of post?structuralism generally on this issue, asserting that it separates language, intentionality and communication: Literary theorists have grappled with the issue of language and intention and some have argued that intentionality can be separated from language and later added to assist with interpretation (Juhl 1980), while others deny it is even possible... (Searle,1969, Knapp & Michaels, 1985). The separability of intentionality and language might be debatable but not so intentionality and communication. (Ellis 1991 p. 221) Many of Derrida's key ideas are based upon Saussurian notions which in turn were grounded in the linguistics of speech. Saussure portrayed langue (a system of words combined with a set of rules values and norms) as a social institution but endowed each person with an internal representation of it, thus permitting it access to la parole, its realisation in every day acts of speech and writing. In this way then Saussure firmly lodged his rule system in the 'speech circuit' with access to individual acts of speech. Deconstruction, however, in removing text from its communicative context, claims that meaning is postponed, or indeed infinitely deferred; that interpretations need to be subjected to interpretation. I would argue that this is simply not practically substantiated in everyday life any more than it is in text. Most observations and questions encountered in everyday life require no clarification whatsoever as can be confirmed by the relatively few occasions on which misunderstandings do occur. We are often painfully aware of the occasions when things do go badly wrong; aircraft crash, patients die, Light Brigades are annihilated, but these are thankfully relatively infrequent. Conversely, I am amazed at times, when transcribing a tape recording of a lesson just how few words are used, or apparently required, to transfer meaning. Social intercourse is not dependent upon language alone, there are a myriad of other signifiers which indicate how a particular statement is to be interpreted. In direct comparison, it appears, that sometimes in Derrida's writing infinitely many words may be used and still not transfer meaning with any
degree of clarity; thus challenging Wittgenstein's (1922 preface) observation that "What can be said at all can be said clearly". Postmodernity celebrates the breaking down of cultural barriers, but in effect high culture is replaced by another equally esoteric and exclusive art form,deconstruction. Possibly some of the literature produced is simply an exclusive self?referential language game, a "textless text" in the words of Geoff Dyer of the Observer, who, reflecting upon his experience of two of Umberto Eco's books remarks: People may have bought Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco with no intention of reading it but it was still a book in the sense that its nominal purpose was to be read. Foucault/ Blanchot was something else; the truth is that the last thing you would do with this book ... would be to read it. To have read it would have violated its essence. It was, if you like, pure signifier: an almost textless text whose meaning was inscribed in its virtual textlessness. (Quoted in Private Eye 14th Jan 1994 p9) What more can I say? References Derrida, J. (1976)Of Grammatology (Spivak Trans.) John Hopkins Press, London. Derrida, J. (1978) Writing and Difference (A. Bass Trans.) Routledge, London. Derrida, J. (1981)Positions (A. Bass Trans.) Althone Press, London. Derrida, J. (1982) 'Differance' In J. Derrida, Margins of Philososphy. (A. Bass Trans.), pp.1-28. Harvester Press, Brighton. Ellis, J. (1989)Against deconstruction. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. Ellis, D. (1991) Post-Stucturalism and Language: Non-sense. Communication monographs 58 pp. 213-23.
Pimm, D.(1991) Signs of the Times. Educational Studies in Mathematics 22, pp. 391-405. Saussure, F. (1983) Cours de Linguistique Generale, Duckworth, London. Tompkins, J. (1988) A Short Course in Post-structuralism. College English 50 (7) pp.733-47.
The moment when semiotics is becoming well-established in America - a subject of conferences, a topic of university courses, and even a domain to which people in various traditional disciplines are beginning to relate their own work - is also, as is perhaps only appropriate, a moment when semiotics finds itself under attack, criticized as a version of precisely the scientific positivism which is itself very prone to reject semiotics. In many cases, of course, the attack on semiotics comes from a traditional humanism, affronted that a discipline with scientific preten- sions should claim to treat products of the human spirit. These argu- ments can be countered in various ways which I shan't be discussing here. I'm interested in a more radical. critique which also focuses on the scientific pretension of semiotics - a critique which compels our atten- tion precisely because it isn't another version of traditional humanism. One could cite various examples of this position. I offer as not untypical, but among the better informed, J. Hillis Miller's argument that among literary critics who have been influenced by European developments a clear distinction can be drawn [ ... ] between what might be called to conflate two terminologies, Socratic, theoretical, or canny critics on the one hand, and Apollonian/Dionysian, tragic, or uncanny critics on the other. Socratic critics are those who are lulled by the promise of a rational ordering of literary study on the basis of solid advances in scientific knowledge about language. They are likely to speak of themselves as "scientists" and to group their collective enterprise under some term like "the human sciences." Such an enterprise is represented by the discipline called semiotics For the most part these critics share the Socratic penchant, what Nietzsche defined as "the unshakeable faith that thought, using the thread of logic, can
penetrate the deepest abysses of being[ ... J." The inheritors of the Socratic faith would believe in the possibility of a structuralist-inspired criticism as a rational and rationalizable activity, with agreed upon rules of procedures, *This paper was delivered at the International Conference on the Semiotics of Art, spon- sore d by the University of Michigan, Mav 1978, and will appear in the proceedings of that conference. For a more extensive development of this discussion, see my "Structuralism and Grammatology," boundary 2 (forthcoming). given facts, and measurable results. This would be a discipline bringing lit- erature out into the sunlight in a "happy positivism" (1976: 335). The "uncanny critics," on the other hand, have no such faith in the pos- sibility of general and systematic theories, because they have discovered that a careful working through of individuai texts, whether literary or philosophical, leads to unmasterable paradoxes, aporias, which seem constitutive of the domain of signification itself. I cite this argument as an example of the attitude which has come to be called "post-structuralist" or "deconstructionist," but I am less interested in Miller's own account of the situation, which seems primar- ily based on psychological categories - are the proponents of semiotics "lulled by the promise of rational ordering"? do we have "unshakeable faith" in thought? - than in the powerful interpretive account of lin- guistics and semiotics on which statements such as Miller's are ulti- mately dependent: Jacques Derrida's reading of Saussure in De la gram- matologie. I want to focus on this reading partly because I think Derrida is right and that his argument should be better understood among semi- oticians but also because I am interested in the implications for semio- tics of this deconstructive reading. But first a word about Derrida's general project. Derrida's writings, his readings of theoretical texts, are explorations of what he calls the "logocentrism" of Western culture - the "metaphysics of presence" which these texts can be shown simultaneously to affirm and to under- mine. The metaphysics of presence - our metaphysics determines being as presence, granting ontological primacy, for example, to what is deemed to be present to consciousness. The Cartesian cogito, in which the I is deemed to lie beyond doubt because it is present to itself in the act of thinking, is one instance. Another is our notion that there is a pres- ent instant which we can
truly grasp in that it is self-identical and pres- ent to us, and that the reality of everything depends on its relation to this presence of the present: the past a former present and the future an anticipated present. Finally, there is the notion of meaning as something present to the consciousness of the speaker at the moment of utterance: what the speaker "has in mind" as he speaks. Derrida is interested in the way in which this logocentrism is "deconstructed" in texts that affirm it. To deconstruct logocentrism is to show that what was taken to be the truth of the world or the ground of an enquiry is in fact a construct that has been imposed and which is contradicted by certain results of the enquiry it founds. This will become clearer, as we follow Derrida's reading of Saussure. The Cours de linguis- tique generale and semiotics generally provide a striking case for Der- rida, for it can be shown to contain a radical critique of logocentrism and the metaphysics of presence on the one hand, yet an affirmation of logocentrism and an inextricable involvement with it on the other. Let us take these movements in turn. 1. The critique of logocentrism. Since Saussure defines language as a system of signs, the central question becomes that of the nature and identity of signs and their constituents. Saussure is led by his investiga- tion to argue that linguistic units do not have essences but are defined solely by relations. His famous claim that "dans la langue il n'y a que des diff‚rences, sans termes positifs," is a principle wholly at odds with logocentrism. It maintains, on the one hand, that no terms of the system are ever simply and wholly present, for there are no positive terms and a difference can never be present as such. The reality of linguistic units cannot depend, therefore, on their presence as such. And, on the other haind, in defining identity in terms of common absences rather than in terms of common presences, the linguistic and semiotic principle puts in question the principle which is the very cornerstone of the metaphysics of presence. 2. The affirmation of logocentrism. Though Saussure has specified that sound itself does not belong to the linguistic system, and though he has used the example of writing to illustrate the nature of linguistic units, he adamantly denies that writing is an object of linguistic enquiry ("spoken forms alone constitute its object") and treats writing as a parasitic form, the representation of a representation. This may seem like a relatively innocent move, but in fact a great deal depends on it. And the energy and moral indignation which Saussure displays in relating how linguists can "fall into the trap" of attending to written
forms and how writing can "usurp the role" of speech and even affect pronunciation - this suggests that more is at stake than meets the eye. Ever since Plato con- demned writing in the Phaedrus, discussion of language has ascribed some characteristics of language to writing and then relegated it to a position of dependence so as to confront a purified speech. To put it very schematically, if writing is set aside as dependent and derivative, accounts of language can take as the norm the experience of hearing oneself speak, where form and meaning seem given simultaneously and in an event of incarnation, rather than, say, the act of deciphering an anonymous inscription. The repression of writing minimizes the differential or diacritical nature of language in favor of supposed presences. The privileging of speech is not only a weighty matter, it is also very nearly inescapable. Why is this so? Because linguistic analysis, and by extension semiotic analysis, depends upon the possibility of identifying signs. To identify signs one must be able to identify signifieds, since a sequence is a signifier only if it is correlated with a concept or signified. We know bet and pet are different signifiers because each has associated with it a different signified. And if we ask how we know this, at what moment or place this association is given, the answer requires some form of presence and will ultimately refer to the moment of speech: the moment of utterance when signifier seems to deliver the signified which is present in it or which it expresses at that moment. The moment of utterance seems to present positive terms, given in and of themselves, and thus to provide a point of departure for analysis of a system said to consist only of differences. Since the possibility of grasping or identifying signifieds is necessary to the semiotic project, it is no accident that semiotic theory should find itself implicated in phonocentrism and logocentrism. It is neither an accident nor, I want to insist, an error. Let me quote a passage from the Grammatology: The privilege of the phon‚ does not depend on a choice that could have been avoided. It responds to a moment of economy (let us say of the "life" of "history" or of "being-as-self-relationship"). The system of s'entendre parler through the phonic substance - which presents itself as the non- exterior, non-mundane, and therefore non-empirical or contingent signifier - has necessarily dominated the history of the world during an entire epoch, and has even produced the idea of the
world, the idea of world- origin, that arises from the difference between the worldly and the non- worldly, the outside and the inside, ideality and non-ideality, universal and non-universal, transcendental and empirical, etc. (1976: 7-8). These are large claims. They may become more comprehensible if one notes that oppositions such as outside/inside, transcendental/empirical, etc., depend on a point of differentiation, a line of division which dis- tinguishes the two terms and commands the opposition. The claim is that the moment of speech, where signifier and signified seem given together, where inner and outer or physical and mental are for an instant perfectly fused, serves as the point of reference in relation to which all these distinctions are posited. Since the privileging of speech is essential to our metaphysics, Derrida does not argue that Saussure was mistaken in asserting the primacy of voice and founding linguistic analysis on the necessarily logocentric notion of the sign. On the contrary, Derrida's analyses of the ubiquity of logocentrism - even Georges Bataille can be shown ultimately to be a Kantian - show that analysis is necessarily logocentric: even the most rigorous critiques of logocentrism cannot escape it since the concepts they must use are part of the system being deconstructed. There are, of course, various ways of playing with or resisting the system that one cannot escape, but it would be an error to suggest that Derrida and deconstruction have provided us with an alternative to semiotics and logocentrism. Grammatology, Derrida has said, is not a new discipline which could replace a logocentric semiology; it is the name of a ques- tion (1972: 22). Indeed, Derrida's own writing involves a series of strategic manoeuv res and displacements in which he modifies his terms, producing a chain of related but non-identical operators - diff‚rance, suppl‚ment, trace, hymen, espacement, greffe, pharmakon, parergon - to prevent any of his terms from becoming "concepts" of a new science. Derrida's reading of Saussure is an exploration of the selfdeconstruction of semiotics. Indeed, in the interview in Positions entitled "Semiologie et grammatologie" he identified his double science or double reading not with a mode of discourse that would lie outside or beyond semiotics but with a special practice within semiotics. One can say a priori that in every semiotic proposition or system of research metaphysical presuppositions will cohabit with critical motifs by virtue of the fact that up to a certain point they inhabit the same language, or rather the same system of language. Grammatology
would doubtless be less another science, a new discipline charged with a new content or a new and well- delimited domain than the vigilant practice or exercise of this textual divi- sion (la pratique -vigilante de ce partage textuel) (1972: 49-50). Three points by way of conclusion. Deconstruction isn't, at least in the work of Derrida and its other most skillful practitioners, some kind of "new irrationalism," as is occasionally suggested. Though it reveals "irrationalities" in our systems and theories, it is the most rigorous pur- suit of the logic of the text, be it a theoretical or a literary text. The aporias deconstruction reveals are contradictions, paradoxes, which semiotics cannot escape: in this case that the theory of the sign leads to theoretical principles which must be repressed if analysis is to take place. Semiotics cannot help supposing positive terms which its theory must disallow. Further discussion would lead us to the unmaster- able oppositions between langue and parole, system and event, synch- ronic and diachronic, which can never be held together in a single self-consistent system. Generally, semiotics is not the self-consistent dis- course of a science but a text. What deconstruction advises is not a change of direction - the correction of some error which would make it a "true science" - or a change of purpose - a shift from semiotics to a new discipline of grammatology. There is no escape from textuality; one can only engage it with crit- ical vigilance: "la pratique vigilante de ce partage textuel." REFERENCES DERRIDA, JACQUES, 1976. Of Grammatology, Gayatri Spivak, trans. (Baltimore: Johns Hop- kins), 1972 Positions (Paris: Minuit). MILLER, J. HILLIS, 1976. "Steven-s's Rock and Criticism as Cure," The Georgia Review 30:2-,330-405
THE MICROSTRUCTURE OF LOGOCENTRISM: SIGN MODELS IN DERRIDA AND SMOLENSKY by
KIP CANFIELD Dept. of Information Systems, University of Maryland firstname.lastname@example.org
_Postmodern Culture_ v.3 n.3 (May, 1993) email@example.com Copyright (c) 1993 by Kip Canfield, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author and the notification of the publisher, Oxford University Press.
ON (PURE) RHETORIC
Peirce (Buchler 99) says that the task of pure rhetoric
is "to ascertain the laws by which, in every scientific
intelligence, one sign gives birth to another, and especially one thought brings forth another." Sign models are metaphors that evolve to support any constellation of ideas, and as de Man points out, "metaphors are much more tenacious than facts" ("Semiology and Rhetoric" 123). Any critique of current ideas dealing with human cognition and symbolic behavior must therefore address the metaphoricity of sign models.  In what follows, we will explore a remarkable parallelism in stories about the sign, between the discourse of the humanities and of cognitive sciences. This exploration will be conducted in the form of close readings of two works, "Linguistics and Grammatology," Chapter 2 of _Of Grammatology_ by Jacques Derrida, and "On the proper treatment of connectionism" by Paul Smolensky. purpose of these readings is not to apply results from one field to another or to hypothesize direct influence, but rather to investigate two rhetorical strategies that develop in the face of the same metaphoric impasse. Both of the works in question come out of a rejection of structuralism--in philosophy and cognitive science, respectively--and although their arguments are basically the same, they take different paths away from structuralism.  Derrida stakes out a skeptic's position, one that shows the aporias and contradictions inherent in the dyadic sign model used by structuralists. He explicitly denies that The
there is any way around these contradictions. Smolensky, by contrast, has the scientist's typical aversion to skepticism, and he tries to reconceive the sign model that underlies his theory of connectionism in order to resolve those same contradictions. The parallels between these two works, I will argue, may be attributed to a similarity in the historical moment of each author, even though the works themselves are twenty years apart and their authors are of different nationalities.  Derrida stakes out his territory in opposition to grammars for atomic units of meaning. Oversimplification of Structuralism can be dangerous (see Culler 28), but in essence, Structuralism was an empiricist reaction to the interpretive projects of the New Criticism, and it explained referent meaning as the center of a symbolic system or structure. In "Linguistics and Grammatology," Derrida demonstrates the problems that such an autistic view of human signification entails, and suggests that the dyadic sign model of Saussure is in fact responsible for generating the aporias of Structuralism.  Smolensky's work is an oppositional response to traditional Cognitive Science, that uneasy mixture of Cognitive Psychology and Artificial Intelligence. Cognitive Psychology, in turn, began as a reaction to the empiricism of Behaviorism and its inability to refer to Mind as a Structuralism, with its linguistic model of rules and
theoretical construct. The relatively humanistic models employed by Cognitive Psychology came under attack after the field became heavily influenced by computer-based Artificial Intelligence in the 1970s, and it became fashionable to value cognitive models only if they had a computational implementation. The state of this modeling led to very simple and brittle models of human cognition and, in effect, dragged Cognitive Psychology back towards Empiricism. For example, a recent work by Alan Newell (_Unified Theories of Cognition_) proposes a theory of cognition that is based primarily on production rules (rules of the if/then type). The complex problem of how the antecedents and consequents of these rules arise cannot be addressed in such a limited architecture: in fact, Smolensky sees this sort of dyadic sign model--the kind of model that is easily implemented on a serial computer--as the basic problem for objectivist Cognitive Science.  Both Smolensky and Derrida, then, object to a tradition that presents a simplistic, deterministic view of human signification, and both elaborate a new vision of semantics and dynamics for their sign models. Each author offers a vision of human cognition that is more complex, more mysterious, and less deterministic than the traditions they oppose.
II. SIGN MODELS
Though the discourse of any given historical moment is
governed by certain metaphors, it is often the case that changes to those metaphors are generated by the very discourse they govern. Structuralism and Cognitive Science use a static, dyadic model of the sign, but the syntactic orientation of dyadic sign models makes such explanations of meaning unsatisfying, both logically and contextually. Authors such as Sheriff have tried to rescue meaning by applying the triadic model of Peirce, with its interpretant, but this solution is largely unsuccessful because it simply inscribes pragmatics in the interpretant, leaving the connection between pragmatics and meaning obscure. The critiques of Structuralism and Cognitive Science described below rely on more flexible, dynamic sign models: Smolensky tries to change the architecture of the dyadic sign model fundamentally, while Derrida explores that model's inability to account for the gap between the signifier and the signified. systems model which unifies the oppositions that arise in static accounts of the sign. Both authors employ an organic, dynamic,
SMOLENSKY'S MODEL  Cognitive Science was carved out in academia during
the mid-1970s to create an interdisciplinary home for various scholars who took an information-processing approach to cognitive modeling. Two major critical responses to this objectivist cognitive science are cognitive semantics (Lakoff, "Cognitive Semantics") and connectionism (McClelland _Parallel Distributed Processing_ vol. 1). George Lakoff is one of the more polemical writers of this critique. He has identified two definitional aspects of what he calls objectivist (mainstream) cognitive science. They are: (1) The algorithmic theory of mental processes: All mental processes are algorithmic in the mathematical sense, that is, they are formal manipulations of arbitrary symbols without regard to the internal structure of symbols and their meaning. (2) The symbolic theory of meaning: Arbitrary symbols can be made meaningful in one and only one way: by being associated with things in the world (where "the world" is taken as having a structure independent of the mental processes of any beings). ("Cognitive Semantics" 119) Lakoff goes on to propose a "cognitive semantics" (he also calls it experientialist cognition). In so doing, he challenges two major characteristics of the objectivist account. First, he counters the arbitrariness of the sign with a new theory of categorization related to the prototype theory of Rosch; second, he lambastes the syntactic orientation of algorithms in the information processing
model: The most essential feature of objectivist cognition is the separation of symbols from what they mean. It is this separation that permits one to view thought as the algorithmic manipulation of arbitrary symbols. The problem for such a view is how the symbols used in thought are to be made meaningful. ("Cognitive Semantics" 125) Lakoff's language here revolts against the arbitrary nature of the sign and the syntactic character of algorithms. Its criticisms strike at the dualistic definition of the sign and therefore at the foundations of structuralism.  The connectionist approach to cognitive modeling accepts Lakoff's critique, but connectionism is primarily concerned with model architecture: Connectionist models are large networks of simple parallel computing elements, each of which carries a numerical *activation value* which it computes from the values of neighboring elements in the network, using some simple numerical formula. The network elements, or *units*, influence each other's values through connections that carry a numerical strength, or *weight*. (Smolensky 1) The connectionist architecture supports distributed processing, in which each parallel processor is doing only part of a larger process that perhaps cannot be modeled as a series of steps in an algorithm (as with a Turing machine). In the connectionist models, representation is achieved by
looking at an entire network of individual unit values. These models are often called parallel distributed processing (PDP) models (Rumelhart and McClelland).  The connectionist model is largely incompatible with the traditional cognitive science framework, which is symbolic and based on language. This rejection of the traditional structure of the sign (signifier/signified) makes allies of Lakoff and Smolensky. Smolensky's article offers connectionism" (1). The article sets out to define the goals of connectionism, and it explicitly advocates a specific set of foundational principles. Smolensky's first task is to establish the purview of his analysis, which he calls the level of the subsymbolic paradigm. This level lies somewhere between the symbolic level of traditional structuralism or cognitive science and the neural level of basic biological processes: In calling the traditional approach to cognitive modeling the "symbolic paradigm," I intend to emphasize that in this approach, cognitive descriptions are built of entities that are symbols both in the semantic sense of referring to external objects and in the syntactic sense of being operated upon by symbol manipulation. . . . The mind has been taken to be a machine for formal symbol manipulation, and the symbols manipulated have assumed essentially the same semantics what he calls "the proper treatment of
as words of English. . . . The name "subsymbolic paradigm" is intended to suggest cognitive descriptions built up of entities that correspond to *constituents* of the symbols used in the symbolic paradigm; these fine-grained constituents could be called *subsymbols*, and they are the activities of individual processing units in the connectionist networks." (3-4)  Smolensky has dispensed with the signifier/signified dyadic structure of the sign (where symbol=sign). He was forced to do this by the intractable space (gap) between the signifier and the signified. This space caused brittleness in the artificial intelligence systems--inflexibility in the face of a changing environment. By contrast, Smolensky's architecture for the sign is very malleable. A sign (concept) has no simple internal structure that contains the big problematic gap: instead, a sign is conceived of as a network of very simple elements that allows context to intrude into (be contained in) the sign. Dreyfus and Dreyfus put it thus: What Smolensky means by a complete, formal, and precise description is not the logical manipulation of context-free primitives--symbols that refer to features of the domain regardless of the context in which those features appear--but rather the mathematical description of an evolving dynamic system. (31-32)  Smolensky says: "the activities of the subconceptual units that comprise the symbol--its *subsymbols*--change across contexts" (15). He states the principle of context
dependence as follows: "In the symbolic paradigm, the context of a symbol is manifest around it and consists of other symbols; in the subsymbolic paradigm, the context of a symbol is manifest inside it and consists of subsymbols" (17). At this point Smolensky has described a network structure that claims to have more powerful explanatory capabilities than the traditional dyadic model of the sign because context can intermingle with content.
DERRIDA'S MODEL  Derrida has precisely these same objections to the
traditional structure of the sign. Whereas Smolensky responds with the network metaphor, Derrida's critique is governed by the metaphor of generalized (arche) writing. Writing is the structure and process which makes possible the dynamic character of language, according to Derrida, but it is (commonly) considered to be exterior to language. He discusses this exteriority at length, arguing that [t]he exteriority of the signifier is the exteriority of writing in general, and I shall try to show later that there is no linguistic sign before writing. Without that exteriority, the very idea falls into decay. (_Of Grammatology_ 14)  The problem is that once you enforce the distinction between the signifier and the signified, reference is
confused, and you continually get the "eruption of the outside within the inside" (_Of Grammatology_ 34). The nature of the confusion surrounding reference in a static, dyadic account of the sign is clear in the following: The system of writing in general is not exterior to the system of language in general, unless it is granted that the division between the exterior and the interior passes through the interior of the interior or the exterior of the exterior, to the point where the immanence of language is essentially exposed to the intervention of forces that are apparently *alien to its system*. (_Of Grammatology_ 43; my emphasis) This notion of penetration is parallel to Smolensky's observations about brittleness, since including context inside the sign is an example of the exterior intruding on the interior. Under a dyadic sign-model, such an interpenetration of context and the sign is not allowed, and this prohibition, in turn, is one factor that generates critique.
III. MOVEMENT AND MEANING  models because of their naive simplicity and semantic problems. This naivete is a consequence of Structuralism's and Cognitive Science's view of the sign as static. Both Derrida and Smolensky elaborate a dynamics in their Both Derrida and Smolensky object to dyadic sign
critiques. Derrida's mechanisms for including movement in the sign-model are differance, trace and presence, which are discussed below. Smolensky uses the mathematical theory of dynamic systems to put movement into his network structure. The semantic problems are, at root, the same as the hoary old mind/body problem of philosophy. that his sign model, in the framework of connectionism, goes some distance in solving that problem. Derrida despairs of a solution and, in fact, states that a solution is impossible. Let us look first at the semantic aspects of each critique and then at the dynamics. Smolensky thinks
SEMANTICS  Structuralism and most flavors of cognitive science are
forms of rationalism or introspectionism (see Chomsky, _Knowledge of Language_). Both Derrida and Smolensky oppose such rationalism. processor (which is not accessible to symbolic intuition), and a conscious rule interpreter: What kinds of programs are responsible for behavior that is not conscious rule application? I will refer Smolensky proposes an intuitive
to the virtual machine that runs these programs as the *intuitive processor*. It is presumably responsible for all of animal behavior and a huge proportion of human behavior: Perception, practiced motor behavior, fluent linguistic behavior, intuition in problem solving and game-playing--in short, practically all skilled performance. (5) The programs running on the intuitive processor, then, are not composed of symbols which have a syntax and semantics similar to language. This idea is not mainstream in cognitive science, which takes an artificial-intelligence or information-processing view of cognition and posits exactly the intuitive/linguistic correspondence Smolensky rejects.  Smolensky translates subconceptual processes into mathematics, which are not accessible to intuition. Derrida describes the traditional rationalism as logocentrism, a fundamental effect of the atomic structure of the signified. In the course of his polemic on speech, Derrida says: The affirmation of the essential and "natural" bond between the phone and the sense, the privilege accorded to an order of signifier (which then becomes the major signified of all other signifiers) depend expressly, and in contradiction to the other levels of Saussurian discourse, upon a psychology of consciousness and of intuitive consciousness. What Saussure does not question here is the essential possibility of nonintuition. Like Husserl, Saussure determines this nonintuition teleologically as *crisis*. (_Of
Grammatology_ 40) The appeal to nonintuition by both authors is a necessary break with traditional representation, and it recalls Lacan's barrier between the signifier and the signified (Noth 303), where there is no "access from one to the other." One can no longer retain traditional models built with now-discarded tools: the new models require a new metaphysics.  It is intriguing that both authors appeal to *levels* to justify the apparent difference between usual interpretations of the sign and the novel view taken in these texts. Smolensky's appeal is to physics: The relationship between subsymbolic and symbolic models is more like that between quantum and classical mechanics. Subsymbolic models accurately describe the microstructure of cognition, whereas symbolic models provide an *approximate* description of the macrostructure. (12, my emphasis) This comparison jumps right out of his three-level architecture. The lowest level, the neural level, is closely modeled with the subsymbolic (=subconceptual) level. The highest level, the traditional symbolic (=conceptual) level, is only an approximation of the lower levels. It is an approximate language that developed to allow us (the subject) a way to talk about cognitive matters. He says: The relation between the conceptual level and the lower levels is fundamentally different in the subsymbolic and symbolic paradigms. This leads to important
differences in the kind of explanations that the paradigms offer of conceptual level behavior, and the kind of reduction used in these explanations. A symbolic model is a system of interacting processes, all with the same conceptual-level semantics as the task behavior being explained. . . . [whereas, u]nlike symbolic explanations, subsymbolic explanations rely crucially on a *semantic ("dimensional") shift* that accompanies the shift from the conceptual to the subconceptual levels. (11; my emphasis)  Derrida has to resort to a similar tactic in the face What Saussure saw without seeing, knew without being able to take into account, following in that the entire metaphysical tradition, is that a certain model of writing was necessarily but provisionally imposed . . . as instrument and technique of representation of a system of language. And that this movement, unique in style, was so profound that it permitted the thinking, *within language*, of concepts like those of the sign, technique, representation, language. (_Of Grammatology_ 43) The dyadic structure of traditional structuralist sign models has proven unacceptable for both authors. Smolensky responds by conceiving of a new structure (a network) and Derrida by exploring the problems in the old structure (the gap between signifier and signified). of our inability to escape metaphysical talk:
SMOLENSKY'S INTUITIVE PROCESSOR  A recurring theme in these stories about levels is the
inaccessibility of the lower levels to symbolic intuition. Traditional theories of the sign assume that intuition can penetrate anything cognitive. By contrast, semantics in Smolensky's model involves the mysterious "shift" from numeric to symbolic representation, a shift described in his "subsymbolic hypothesis": The intuitive processor is a subconceptual connectionist dynamic system that does not admit a complete, formal, and precise conceptual level description. . . . Subsymbols are not operated upon by symbol manipulation: They participate in *numerical-not symbolic--computation*. (7, 3; my emphasis)  Furthermore, the unit processors in the model do not correspond to conceptual-level semantics at all. They do not model words, concepts, or even distinctive features as described in linguistics. Smolensky proposes the following subconceptual-unit hypothesis: The entities in the intuitive processor with semantics of conscious concepts of the task domain are complex patterns of activity over many units. Each unit participates in many such patterns. . . . At present, each individual subsymbolic model adopts particular procedures for relating patterns of activity--activity vectors--to the conceptual-level descriptions of inputs and outputs that define the model's task. (6-7)
A complete description of cognition is numerical and therefore not available in our native symbolic language. Subsymbolic computation in a dynamic system is cognition, and the asymptotic behavior of trajectories in the system is *somehow* approximately mapped to symbolic language. This explains the nonintuitive character of the intuitive processor and presumably explains why symbolic theories like those in linguistics always seem to *almost* formalize language, but ultimately fail on the fringes.
DERRIDA'S ORIGINS  We have noted above that Smolensky links the
subsymbolic and symbolic levels with a "semantic shift." The Derridean concepts of trace and differance parallel these levels. These concepts operate within the metaphor of writing in a way that allows Derrida's system of signs to move and be dynamic. For our purposes, the problem of the origin and the dynamics of differance are the salient topics in Derrida's theory.  Because the signified is "always already in the position of the signifier" (_Of Grammatology_ 73), origins become problematic. As Derrida puts it, Representation mingles with what it represents, to the point where one speaks as one writes, one thinks as if
the represented were nothing more than the shadow or reflection of the representer. A dangerous promiscuity and a nefarious complicity between the reflection and reflected which lets itself be seduced narcissistically. In this play of representation, the point of origin becomes ungraspable. (_Of Grammatology_ 36)  This attention to the problem of origin indicates an uneasiness with semantics. Derrida uses the image of track or trace to express this uneasiness. What he says (in Smolensky's terms) is that there is no origin because we attach a semantic purpose to origins and at the point of origins, there is no semantics. The (pure) trace is not semantic: The trace is not only the disappearance of origin-within the discourse that we sustain and according to the path that we follow it means that the origin did not even disappear, that it was never constituted except reciprocally by a nonorigin, the trace, which becomes the origin of the origin. . . . *The (pure) trace is differance*. It does not depend on any sensible plenitude, audible or visible, phonic or graphic. It is, on the contrary, the condition of such a plenitude. Although it *does not exist*, although it is never a *being-present* outside of all plenitude, its possibility is by rights anterior to all that one calls the sign. . . . *The trace is in fact the absolute origin of sense in general. Which amounts to saying once again that there is no absolute origin of
sense in general*. (_Of Grammatology_ 61-62, 65)  This recalls Smolensky's "semantic shift" problem, in which he sets up a system where all computation is purely numerical and has no symbolic-level semantics. He must then finesse a "shift" to our human realm of signs, something Derrida says is impossible: This arche-writing, although its concept is *invoked* by the themes of "the arbitrariness of the sign" and of difference, cannot and can never be recognized as the *object of a science*. It is that very thing which cannot let itself be reduced to the form of *presence*. . . . There cannot be a science of differance itself in its operation, as it is impossible to have a science of the origin of presence itself, that is to say of a certain nonorigin. (_Of Grammatology_ 57,63)  or unconscious character of cognitive acts like language. Derrida calls this the "fundamental unconsciousness of language" (_Of Grammatology_ 68) and says that "Spacing as writing is the becoming-absent and the becomingunconscious of the subject" (_Of Grammatology_ 69). But while Derrida says of the trace that "no concept of metaphysics can describe it" (_Of Grammatology_ 65), Smolensky has presented Derrida, like Smolensky, emphasizes the nonintuitive
a mathematical metaphysics. Smolensky's attempt has yet to tackle the precise point that Derrida has tried to show cannot be described: the point at which the non-semantic origins of signification become semantic.
DYNAMICS  In the terminology of engineering mechanics, statics is
the study of forces on structures, and dynamics is the study of forces on structures in motion. All critiques of structuralism reflect a passing from statics to dynamics; the dynamic view of structuralism has always existed in structuralism but was not mainstream (see Piaget). Poststructural discourse emphasizes movement and temporality. Smolensky uses models taken from dynamic systems theory to achieve this, while Derrida defines a cluster of terms (differance, trace and presence) for the same purpose. Both authors use this dynamism to argue for an organic sign model that integrates form and function.  of dynamic systems, as studied in physics. He views the architecture of his model in this way: The numerical activity values of all the processors in the network form a large *state vector*. The interactions of the processors, the equations governing Smolensky explicitly uses the models and mathematics
how the activity vector changes over time as the processors respond to one another's values, is an *activation evolution equation*. This evolution equation governing the mutual interactions of the processors involves the connection weights: numerical parameters which determine the direction and magnitude of the influence of one activation value on another. The activation equation is a differential equation. . . . In learning systems, the connection weights change during training according to the learning rule, which is another differential equation: the *connection evolution equation*. (6) He hypothesis" in which the connection strengths (weights) of the network embody the data, and differential equations describe the dynamic process within which these data become knowledge. The state of this intuitive processor (the network) is defined by a vector which contains the numerical state of each unit processor in the network. For our discussion, the important aspects of this description are the global control over the process of signification given by the systems idea, and the semantic anomalies presented by the numerical character of the model. elaborates a "connectionist dynamical system
SMOLENSKY'S GLOBAL CONTROL
The systems idea is very important in Smolensky's
discourse. It becomes possible to describe the connectionist version of cognition by using a mathematical dynamic system as a model (my discussion is informed by Rosen). A dynamic system in mathematics depends on two kinds of representation: one must represent every possible state of the system (statics), and also the behavior of the system (dynamics). The static description uses the concept of a *state space*, which contains an instantaneous description of every possible state of the system. These states can be described as measurements on a system. For example, in Newtonian mechanics, all particles can be described in a system with six dimensions: three for position in 3-dimensional space and three for a momentum measurement in each of those three dimensions. It is important that the number of dimensions chosen give a complete description of the state of the system. In such a model, all states that have the same values in all dimensions are identical to each other. Each dimension is a state variable and the n-tuple (or vector) of all the state variables is a representation of the (instantaneous) state of the system. The mathematical set of all possible unique vectors is the state space of the system. Therefore, most systems will be multidimensional and cannot be visualized in Euclidean space.  In order to provide a dynamic description of a system, one must know how the state variables change with time. Mathematically, this means that each state variable
(dimension) is a function of time. If each of these functions is known, the dynamic behavior of the system is a trajectory in the state space through time. It is usually impossible to know these functions exactly, but since the rate of change of a single state variable depends only on that state in the state space, we can give conditions that these functions must follow. These conditions constrain the trajectory of a behavior but do not uniquely determine it. The constraint is modeled as the derivative of a function which gives the rate of change at a point (state). The derivative of a function (with respect to time) is analogous to the slope of a tangent line to a curve; the slope reflects how fast the points on the curve are changing in the neighborhood of the state. A dynamic system, then, is described by a set of simultaneous differential equations where differential equations are functions of the state variables and their derivatives. Systems described with differential equations represent infinitely many possibilities that are constrained by the (dynamically changing) structure of the system.  Dynamic systems impose a global effect on the state space. For example, in the plane of this paper, all points (positions) can be described with two numbers--the coordinates in the xy plane (a vector with two elements). The intuitive processor's state space, however, is multidimensional: its state space is the set of all possible vectors that describe all activation values of all unit processors in the system. The global effect occurs (most simply) because a differential equation sets up conditions
on every point in the state space. For example, a differential equation with a function in two dimensions involves derivatives which set up a direction field that constrains the trajectory of any curve that goes through a point in it. The direction field is a condition that attaches itself globally to every possible point, and it is what makes possible a global, system-level description of a multitude of separate interacting agents.  The modern scientific concept of fields--such as electric fields, magnetic fields, or even magic force-fields in science fiction--are examples of this kind of global effect. They are something usually unseen but considered to be real (i.e., they effect material reality) and they operate globally, albeit mysteriously, in an area of space. Smolensky sees reference as the asymptotic behavior of a trajectory in a dynamic system, and his scientistic assertion of the possibility of global control contrasts with Derrida's exasperated skepticism, seen below.
DERRIDA'S DIFFERANCE  The early Derrida is conducting a guerrilla war against
structuralism from within the metaphysical terrain of structuralism. He only has whatever is at hand there for the fight. While Smolensky is free to use exotic weapons from his experience (he was trained as a physicist), Derrida must work within the tradition of the dyadic sign. He
considers the dyadic sign constitutive of human thought, even as he shows its inadequacy for explaining meaning. Notwithstanding these differences in tradition and precept, there are many points of contact between Smolensky's dynamic systems and Derrida's trace and differance.  Derrida conceives of the operation of the trace as a *field* in the sense described above, but has no language to justify such a global and actively structuring concept. In exasperation, he calls it "theological": The trace, where the relationship with the other is marked, articulates its possibility in the entire field of the entity [etant], which metaphysics has defined as the being-present starting from the occulted movement of the trace. The trace must be thought before the entity. But the movement of the trace is necessarily occulted, it produces itself as self-occultation. When the other announces itself as such, it presents itself in the dissimulation of itself. This formulation is not theological, as one might believe somewhat hastily. *The "theological" is a determined moment in the total movement of the trace. The field of the entity, before being determined as the field of presence, is structured according to the diverse possibilities-generic and structural--of the trace*. (_Of Grammatology_ 47, my emphasis)  The reader should compare this description with the global *structuring* impact of dynamic systems on statespace, described above. At all times, Derrida presents the
trace as dynamic. It is the "movement of temporalization" (_Of Grammatology_ 47), and "[t]he immotivation of the trace ought to be understood as an operation and not as a state, an active movement, a demotivation, and not as a given structure" (_Of Grammatology_ 51). The shift from statics to dynamics is, of course, a key feature of contemporary discourse on the sign.  Derrida responds to accusations that differance is negative theology with an essay in "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials." Frank Kermode summarizes the argument well: The purpose of Derrida's pronouncement is to claim that differance is not negative in the same measure as the God of negative theology; for it is so in much greater measure--indeed it cannot properly be thought of as negative at all; *it is outside negativity as it is outside everything*. Only by an intellectual error-induced by a sort of metaphysical paranoia, a fear for the security of that "realm"--could anybody suppose that differance has a design on us, or a desire to make itself into some sort of presence. (Kermode 75; my emphasis) Informed by a reading of Smolensky, one might conclude that differance *is* desire, and that "metaphysical paranoia" is completely justified. Where structuralists and objectivist cognitive scientists assume "meaning" as a concept around which structure is built, Derrida and Smolensky use ideas of process and structure to produce "meaning." The main
rhetorical strategy both authors use to do this is to deny a hard distinction between form and function. This conflation gives reality to a field of signification. This is explicit in Smolensky's mathematical metaphysics; in Derrida, it is implicit in the movement of the trace.  Derrida's treatment of presence is interesting in Deconstruction_, invokes Zeno's paradox to explain Derrida's insistence on the impossibility of presence. The present moment is never really present, but always marked with the past and the future. The present is then not real, as difference is not real. Trace "does not exist" and differance is "nothing." Time and absence conspire to destroy any phenomenology. Arche-writing as spacing cannot occur *as such* within the phenomenological experience of a presence. It marks the dead time within the presence of the living present, within the general form of all presence. The *dead time* is at work. That is why, once again, in spite of all the discursive resources that the former may borrow from the latter, the concept of the trace will never be merged with a phenomenology of writing. As the phenomenology of the sign in general, a phenomenology of writing is impossible. No intuition can be realized in the place where "the *whites* indeed take on an importance." (_Of Grammatology_ 68) One might be tempted to regain presence by an appeal to the relation to these metaphysical ideas. Culler, in _On
idea of a field of signification, proposed above, but presence fails for both authors at the point where its phenomenology must be intuitively accessible to the subject. Both authors set up a metaphysics which describes a mechanism for presence, but both place that mechanism in the inhuman realm of numbers or (pure) traces.  Derrida's insistence, then, on presence and difference as "nothing" might be understood as referring only to the realm of human consciousness, the only realm describable in structuralist terms. Derrida's nullification of presence and differance recall a funny story, an old chestnut, that I have most recently seen reincarnated in a book by Arbib (_In Search of the Person_): it seems that there was this mathematician who wished to prove something for Riemann geometry. He disappeared into a room and filled a blackboard with Dirichlet integrals and other mathematical arcana. After a time, a cry was heard from the room, "Wait! Wait! I've proved too much! I've proved there are no prime numbers!" The nullification of differance is a funny idea when one considers such that this nullification might *be* the global control that *produces* cognition. Smolensky might accuse Derrida of having been inattentive in his calculus classes. On the other hand, Derrida would probably apply a quotation from Barthes (Noth 313) to Smolensky: "I passed through a (euphoric) dream of scientificity."
IV. CONCLUSION  I would like to reiterate that this has been an
exploration of rhetorical strategies that arose in two similar historical moments. My discussion ignores any justification or evaluation (scientific or otherwise) with regard to the works by Smolensky and Derrida, and it proposes no direct influence of one on the other. Most importantly, this is not a "methodological" paper that proposes something ridiculous like a "dynamic systems approach to everything."  Both Derrida and Smolensky want to give a fuller, more complex vision of the signifying human. Structuralism and objectivist Cognitive Science present a syntactic picture of human meaning that is unsatisfying. Each author tries to breath life into the dyadic sign model by regaining presence. Smolensky explicitly appeals to presence as a field in dynamic systems theory. Derrida precisely defines such a field with the terms trace and differance while denying their reality because he rejects the concept of global control. The genesis of these critiques is the static character of structuralist or objectivist accounts of signification, theories which relegate all process to the gap between a signified and a signifier, a gap which is "nothing": Derrida and Smolensky rush in to fill this void. Both authors note a semantic problem for sign models that requires a mysterious "semantic shift" from the unconscious
to the conscious. This semantic anomaly does not allow intuitive access to the basis of the sign model. Derrida sees this as an insurmountable mystery, while Smolensky thinks it can be accounted for.  Spivak uses Levi-Strauss' term bricolage to contrast modern discourse with engineering: "All Knowledge, whether one knows it or not, is a species of bricolage, with its eye on the myth of *engineering*" (_Of Grammatology_ xx). Smolensky and Derrida are doing similar odd jobs, but with different tool boxes. Smolensky, with his "eye on the myth of engineering," is a bricoleur with a full quiver of metaphor: he can play Ahab ("That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate"). Derrida doesn't have much faith in his weapons: he can love the whale. -----------------------------------------------------------REFERENCES
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