Norris on Badiou on Derrida

Along the lines of  the the last post and its referenced thread (intra- and intertext intertwining…), I just read an article by Christopher Norris in the Speculations III, “Diagonals: Truth procedures in Derrida and Badiou.” Therein he explores Badiou’s reading of Derrida, and how they are akin yet different. A few excerpts follow of relevance to the referenced discussion above.

“Badiou exempts Derrida from his otherwise sweeping condemnation of the linguistic turn in its sundry current guises as merely an update on old sophistical or cultural-relativist themes…. What is crucially different about Derrida’s commentaries on canonical texts from Plato to Husserl is his relentless teasing-out of aporetic or contradictory chains of logical implication” (157).

“Badiou is attracted not only by the rigour of Derrida’s work but also…by its quest for alternative, less sharply polarised terms of address or some means to shift argumentative ground from a downright clash of contradictory logics (within the text or amongst its commentators) to a ‘space of flight,’ as Badiou describes it, beyond all those vexing antinomies” (158).


“In Derrida it is chiefly a matter of revealing the various deviant, non-classical, or paraconsistent logics that can be shown to inhabit their texts and produce those moments of undecidability—aporias, in the strict sense of the term—which call into question certain of the author’s leading premises or presuppositions…. In Badiou, it is a chiefly a matter of showing how certain overt ontological commitments—those that endorse some version of a plenist or changeless, timeless, and wholly determinate ontology—are fissured by the need to introduce an anomalous term that implicitly concedes the problematical status of any such doctrine and its covert reliance on that which it has striven to keep off bounds. This is why Badiou devotes a large portion of his commentary in the early sections of Being and Event to a detailed rehearsal of the issue of the one and the many…. What emerges here is the conceptual impossibility of thinking an absolute plenitude of being—an absolute dominion of the one over the many, or of the timeless and unchanging over everything subject to time and change…so deeply repugnant to Plato’s idealist mind-set” (163).

“Thus Derridean deconstruction, as distinct from its various spin-offs or derivatives, necessarily maintains a due respect for those axioms or precepts of classical logic (such as bivalence and excluded middle) that have to be applied right up to the limit—the point where they encounter some instance of strictly irresolvable aporia—if such reading is to muster any kind of demonstrative force” (175).

“It will soon strike any attentive reader that when Derrida writes about the logic of the pharmakon in Plato, or supplementarity in Rousseau, or the parergon in Kant, or différance in Husserl (etc.) he is certainly out to discredit the…idealist conception but by no means seeking to undermine the very notions of truth and reference…. it gives rise to a truth-procedure that may for some time—like Cantor’s proposals—come up against strong doxastic or institutional resistance, but which thereafter acts as a periodic spur to the activity of thought by which paradox is turned into concept” (177).

“Derrida’s classic essays must involve…a strong analytical grasp of the logical or logicosemantic
structures that are thereby subject to a dislocating torsion beyond their power to contain or control. After all, this could be the case—or register as such—only on condition that the reader is able and willing to apply the most rigorous standards of logical accountability (including the axioms of classical or bivalent true/false reasoning) and thereby locate those moments of aporia or logico-semantic breakdown that signal the limits of any such reckoning” (179).

“Here again he agrees with Badiou that thought can make progress…only so long as it persists in the effort to work its way through and beyond those dilemmas that periodically emerge in the course of enquiry and can later be seen to have supplied the stimulus to some otherwise (quite literally) unthinkable stage of advance” (180).

“Such is the requirement even, or especially, where this leads up to an aporetic juncture or moment of strictly unresolvable impasse so that the logical necessity arises to deploy a non-classical, i.e., a deviant, paraconsistent, non-bivalent, or (in Derrida’s parlance) a ‘supplementary’ logic…. it is revisionism only under pressure, that is, as the upshot of a logically meticulous reading that must be undertaken if deconstruction is not to take refuge in irrationality or even—as with certain of its US literary variants—in some specially (often theologically) sanctioned realm of supra-rational ambiguity or paradox” (185).

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About theurj

Also known as theurj. I've contributed some essays to Integral World and co-founded Open Integral blog, now defunct. I continue to participate in Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum.
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