Derrida Marxist?

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Sun Dec 20 20:53:48 PST 1998

Hello everyone,

Charles Miller replied to me about Duchamp.

The deconstructionist character of the ready-mades strikes as one sign of Duchamp's alignment with Derrida/others. If you understand deconstruction as an attempt to identify the irreducible instrumental nature of our existing, then the ready-mades can be seen as Duchamp's attempt to get back to the instrumental nature of art and of our being in the world. There are elements of deconstruction to his _Big Glass_ work. The _marginal_ quality of the art, which questions the accepted norms of conventional aesthetics also is deconstructionist in its bringing people face-to-face with the _normativity_ of artistic taste and canons as a whole.

Doyle I don¹t know what the irreducible instrumental nature of our existing is. Duchamp chose a urinal to tweak bourgeois tastes. In this Duchamp was making the point that "artists" could say what the art is, not museum professionals. Any artist who paints a scene upon stretched canvas that is displayed in some town art association show is demonstrating the "irreducible instrumental nature of their existing", or at least you would have to define how what one artist is doing is different from what Duchamp is doing with readymades. I say that because all Duchamp was saying is the artist decides what is the art, not the authorities who serve the bourgeois.

Doyle Duchamp had an ambition to express intellectual concepts in his art. Such as puns. Plus he had the showmans¹ acumen to tweak conservative tastes to generate interest in what he had to say hence sell his views. Both his older brothers were established artists from whom he could understand the ins and outs of marketing his work.

Doyle I am very clear too, that Duchamp and his brothers were intrigued by motion pictures, knew Etienne Marey (the French scientific researcher who did so much in the nineteenth century to figure how to visually show motion) personally, and Duchamp tried to intellectually express ideas about first motion then concepts such as puns in his work. To translate that slightly to another context, when we write with writing systems, we must be able to portray with writing systems things that can¹t be shown pictorially. In other words one could draw an eye to portray an eye. Or animal likeness, but to show them running, or to show a state of being, such as something is sick internally can¹t be easily directly expressed through appearances. So Duchamp like the Egyptians some six thousand years before wrestled with a lengthy human problem of using the visual to express things that are contingent and transitory. But that is not the same thing as Derrida¹s attempt to deconstruct meaning, and Duchamp is only useful as an example of deconstruction to the extent that the cryptic methods Duchamp employed can be understood like a rorshach image at times.

Doyle What I see in your use of Duchamp is that the enigmatic Duchamp seems to begin the historical claims of postmodern theory as Derrida would be an example of. Da Vinci does that for science and art in other contexts concerning the enlightenment claims of scientific thought. Da Vinci is a bit of cypher too. Certain kinds of artists serve as zeitgeists for later developments though they probably wouldn¹t have agreed to the interpretations that are foisted upon them by zealous advocates of new thinking.

Charles Miller I do not understand your bringing your wife into this discussion. I am talking about the notion that the certainty with which scientists, economists, and artists make about objective reality and truth is questionable. This has nothing to do with the certitude you have relating to the danger facing your wife. That is a fact that can be verified immediately. Of course, there is no question of this even happening. Your straw man argument draws an absurd conclusion because it does not even address what I was talking about.

Doyle Certainty begins in everyday practice. In other words we think gravity holds us down to earth. In most cases trying to displace certainty in everyday life is not practical, nor useful to an ordinary persons normal life. What I am getting at is that then questioning "certainty" is quite a questionable project. Because how are we to know where the line is drawn about what we cannot be certain about? For example, Marx would not get that someone tells him he is just a mirror image of his opponent. Marx would be operating upon the certainty that he differed in theory with Stirner. For Derrida to demonstrate that in "fact" they thought alike and all that mattered was Marx¹s desire to destroy an opponent would be a reduction of the important meaning of what Marx thought to the level of how Marx "felt". This presupposes that pure feelings control conscious thought to the point of no content or meaning is knowable. In other words even though Marx thought he had real differences with Stirner, in fact all that mattered is that Marx felt like destroying Stirner.

Charles Miller replying to Christian Gregory;

I guess I see your remarks here as missing the point. I am talking about scientism as an ideology. You are talking about it as method. Usually those who follow the method also believe in the ideology. I think Derrida--following Heidegger-- is suspect of all ideologies (and epistemologies) that wrap themselves in absolutes and TRUTH.

Doyle I believe Charles is saying that I am an ideologue of "scientism" when Charles says I have a "reductionist tendency". And this is a pretty clear statement on his part about that sort of opinion. An important element of this sort of thinking I think is to question "universals". Or wholes, or totalities, or general statements. In addition to argue that the primary aim of discussion is rhetorical argument. So that we no longer can discuss universals about material reality. In other words that concepts like a universal are only rhetoric, and argument.

Charles Miller; Mirror reflection, in the context I used it, has to do with a way of speaking. Your misconstrual of my metaphor is indicative of a literalizing rhetoric that attempts to undermine an opponent's argument by a straw man reductio ad absurdum. I was not speaking literally. In the context of common usage, people understand the notion of a mirror reflection. In the context of Derrida speaking about Marx attacking Stirner, we can certainly speak of mirror reflections, since many people (and Marx in this instance) base self-identity on trying to be like others (think of a teenager idolizing a rock star). Marx, according to Derrida, saw elements of sameness between his own thought and Stirner's and their relationship to Hegelian thought. The closeness was too mirror-like, according to Derrida, so much so that Marx's fury in _German Ideology_ is potentially understandable as Marx's attempt to eradicate this mirror-likeness.

Doyle Likeness or knowing something is alike to something else is a very complex process to communicate. In other words, when someone says Marx was a mirror image of Stirner it conveys they were alike as a metaphor might in ordinary conversation. But in this case Derrida is using "rhetorical" devices like a lawyer to convince us that yes Marx was alike to Stirner. But my point is that if one does say such things, then it must be shown much clearer than a faulty metaphor might accomplish. To be alike in thought is not a mirror like process, and is dependent upon how the two involved see themselves. If Marx thought he differed from Stirner that is good evidence he did. To say then that all that mattered was how Marx felt is hard to swallow. Because in an elementary manner we have to trust that two people who disagree really do disagree when they tell us that is so.

Charles Miller; Again, your reductionistic tendency to literalize misses the point altogether. Marx was indeed ostensibly attacking Stirner for his lack of awareness of historical constructs and their conditioning of how the ego understands itself. That is not the question that Derrida is dealing with, not does what derrida confuse his argument with what you are correct in noting. But, for Derrida's argument, your statement is _obvious_. The element in Marx's critique of Stirner that Derrida finds interesting is the ferocity of the attack, as well as the fact that Stirner hold positions that Marx really should, according to his own logic, accept, but which Marx seeks to destroy by obliterating his opponent. I think Derrida sees this as indicative of an ontological tendency to reduce otherness to sameness when the other refuses to act or think like me.

Doyle To begin with, you ascribe to me a "reductionist" tendency. There is no handbook of reductionist methods, other than the normal effort to describe the whole by the parts. Your label of me as reductionist is your label. I am the better judge of what I believe than you. Your tool kit of rhetoric does not have the means to know my mind any more than I yours unless you tell me forthrightly and directly yes you are a reductionist. My views are Marxist. I have the usual Marxist view that we hold to scientific practices and methods. State a theory, and see how practice sorts things out in the real world.

Doyle However, I would appreciate a detailed list of reductionist thinking by tomorrow so that we can discern the better whether I am a reductionist.

Doyle An ontological tendency to reduce Stirner to the sameness by Marx? So here we are trying to get that Marx didn¹t have it in Marx himself to consider Stirner was different. So Marx had to "reduce" Stirner to sameness because Stirner didn¹t act like Marx. I find such conundrums very hard to grasp. No doubt you find me hard to understand also. We are so different you and I. I must turn upon you and destroy you. My reductionist tendencies tell me to do that most clearly. Oh mighty Scientific Reductionism. How shall I smite this clever rhetorician? Regards, Doyle Saylor -------------- next part -------------- An HTML attachment was scrubbed... URL: <../attachments/19981220/e2224641/attachment.htm>

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