Sunday, November 13, 2011

Derrida and Realism

We've been blogging here at The Notes Taken for several years now, and our contributors have yet to thematically discuss (as I discovered as I was tagging this post) either speculative realism or Jacques Derrida. Both subjects, in a way, have been outside of my range of concerns, even if I occasionally try to keep current on them (bloggingly speaking).* I did, at the recent CSCP conference, mention to Michael of Complete Lies that despite my interest in Quentin Meillassoux, I ultimately find QM to be too Althusserian for my tastes (though let me add: this may sound dismissive, but this a discussion I'd like to engage in more depth later). And I have not read any non-blog writings of the others: Graham Harman, Levi Bryant, or Tim Morton.

At some point last year, they circled the wagons during a period of a few days that many of us know as the Derrida Wars. And I don't want to rehash that debate, but I do want to mention that the issue--roughly, could Derrida be a realist?-- has resurfaced recently. Which leads me to an great post by Peter Gratton on Derrida's Of Grammatology. If you do the SR thing, then you might just find a strong challenge to the typical SR dismissal of Derrida, and if you don't, Peter has at least proposed a number of reasons as to why we should reconsider Derrida's work, in a way (this post has style, that's for sure) that makes Of Grammatology sound a little less forbidding than usual (I mean that as a compliment, since Peter's work on Derrida talked me in to rereading the latter). Here's the main point:
This isn’t to defend Derrida just for the sake of defending Derrida, but it’s to point out that if one wants to critique correlationism (the idea that what is real must be indexed back to the conscious subject, an argument that entails the correlate that what is most real is the consciousness of self, since in the self relation there is not even the distance of a correlation) or the political effects of an idea of nature, well Of Grammatology is a good place to begin.
The latter issue--the political effects of an idea of nature--my guess is that Peter's forthcoming The State of Sovereignty has something to say about that.

The Lone Footnote
*Since I wrote a book on Schelling, the reader might wonder how I would not be concerned with Iain Hamilton Grant's work. To which I respond: I don't consider Grant to be advocating realism alone but a type of Schellingian idealism-realism.

As for Derrida, I would like to work through the Beast and the Sovereign lectures someday.

1 comment:

Clark said...

I think many of those advocating Derrida's realism offer pretty strong caveats as to what kind of realism they think he entails. I suspect your point with Grant is a good one. Many advocates of a realist Derrida really are offering something more akin to Schelling's (or Peirce's) objective idealism.

I don't know if all the people talking about Derrida as an idealist ought make this distinction. But I think much of the debate is more a semantic one over the term realism and when one has stretched it too far. I don't think people are suggesting Derrida is a realist the way Harman understands realism. (Although some might think Harman and Levi are wrong about the correlationist charge)