Beck And Radiohead: Preliminary Material For A Realisation of a Conceptual Recipe #1

As I presented it in my previous post, I’m doing a deconstrucitve conceptual piece with the following recipe: Retype all the lyrics from Beck’s album Sea Change and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool in chronological order of the track lists, the oldest album first. Deconstruct the parts of the lyrics which you can interpret to be about break ups, thus pointing to the différance – as you coin the term – between the concept of break ups in the two albums.

To begin with the part where I coin the term différance, I here quote the paragraphs which Kenneth Goldsmith did when he sang Derrida, as a foundational resource of an analysis which recognizes that even an deconstructive explanation has to end somewhere (it’s short lines in the quote because that’s how they are when you quote from Of Grammatology in the document at monoskop and I don’t bother erasing all the line shifts. Besides, it seems more objectivist that way, and that I like):

“The
thesis
of the
arbitrariness
of the
sign
(so grossly
misna
med,
and
not
only
for the
reasons
Saussure
himself
recognizes
)
8
must
forbid
a radical
distinction
between
the
linguistic
and
the
graphic
sign
. No
dou
bt
this
thesis
concerns
only
the
necessity
of
relationships
between
specific
sig­
nifiers
and
signifieds
within
an
allegedly
natural
relationship between
the
voice
and
sense
in general,
between
the
order
of phonic
signifiers
and the
content
of the
signifieds
(“the
only
natural bond, the
only
true
bond, the
bond
of soun
d”). Only
these
relationships
between
specific
signifiers
and
signifie
ds would
be
regulated
by
arbitrariness.
Within
the
“na
tural”
rela­
tionship
between
phon
ic signifiers
and
their
signi
fieds
in general,
the
rela­
tionship
between
each
determined
signifier
and
its determined
signified
would
be “arbitrary.”
Now
from
the
moment
that
one
considers
the
totality
of determined
signs,
spoken,
and
a fortiori written,
as unmotivated
inst
itutions,
one must
exclude
any
relationship
of natural
subordination,
any
natural
hierarchy
among
signifie
rs or orders
of signifie
rs. If “writing”
signifies
inscr
iption
and
especially
the
durable
institution
of a sign
(and
that is the only
irreducible
kernel
of
the
concept
of writing
), writing
in
general
covers
the
entire
field
of linguist
ic signs.
In that field
a certain
sort
of inst
ituted
signifiers
may
then
appear,
“graphic”
in the
narrow
and
derivative
sense
of the
word,
ordered
by
a certain
relationship
with
other
inst
itut
ed-hence
“written
,”
even
if they
are “phonic”
-sig
nifie
rs. The
very
idea of inst
itution-hence
of
the
arbitrariness
of the
sign-is
unthinkable
before
the
possi
bilit
y of writing
and
out
side
of its horizon
. Quit
e simply,
that
is, outside
of the
horizon
itself,
outside
the
world
as space
of
insc
ription,
as
the
opening
to
the
emission
and
to the
spatial
distri
bution
of signs,
to the
regulated
play
of
their
differences,
even
if they are
“ph
onic.”
Let
us now
persist
in using this
opposition
of nature
and
institution,
of
physis
and
nomos
(which
also means,
of course,
a distribution
and
division
regulated
in fact
by
law)
which
a meditation
on
writing
should
disturb al-
Linguistics and
Grammatol
ogy
45
though
it functions
everywhere
as self-evident,
particularly
in the
disc
ourse
of linguistics.
We
must
then
conclude
that
only
the signs
called
natur
al,
those that
Hegel
and
Saussure
call
“symbols,”
escape
semiology
as gram­
matology.
But
they
fall
a fortiori
out
side
the
field
of linguistics
as the
region
of general
semiology.
The
thesis of
the
arbitrariness
of the
sign thus
indi­
rectly
but
irrevocably
contests
Saussur
e’s
declared
proposition when
he
chases
writing
to the
outer
darkness
of language.
This
thesis
successfully
accounts
for
a conventional
relationship between
the
phoneme
and
the
grapheme
(in phon
etic
writing,
between
the
phoneme,
signifi
er-sig
nified,
and
the
grapheme,
pure
signifier
), but
by
the same
token
it forbids
that
the
latter
be
an “i
mage”
of the
former.
Now
it was
indispensable
to the
exclusion
of
writing
as
“external
system,
” th
at
it come to
impose
an
“image,
” a
“representa
ton,”
or a “figurat
ion,”
an
exterior
reflection
of the
reality
of language.
It matters
little,
here at least,
that
there
is in fact
an
ideographic
filia­
tion
of the
alphab
et. This
important
question
is much
debated
by historians
of writing.
”’hat
matters
here
is that in
the
synchr
onic
structure
and syste­
matic
principle
of alphabetic
writing-and
phonetic
writing
in general­
no
relationship
of “natur
al”
representation,
none
of resemblance
or par­
ticipation,
no
“symbolic”
relationship
in
the
Hegelian-Saussurian
sense
,
no
“iconographic”
relationship
in the
Peircian
sense,
be
implied.
One
must
therefore
challenge,
in the
very
name
of the
arbitrariness
of
the
sign
, the
Saussurian
definit
ion
of writing
as “image”-he
nce as natural
symbol-of
language.
Not
to mentio
n the
fact
that
the
phoneme
is the
unimaginable
itself,
and
no
visibility
can
resemble
it, it su
ffices
to take
into
account
what Saussur
e says
about
the
difference
between
the
symbol
and
the
sign
(p.
101
)
[pp
.
68-6<)]
in order
to be
completely
baffie
d as to how
he can
at the
sam
e time
say of
writing
that it is an
“image”
or “figuration”
of language
and
define
language
and
writing
elsewhere
as “two
distinct
systems
of signs”
(p. 45) [po
2
3
]’ For
the
property
of the
sign
is not
to be
an image
. By
a pro
cess
exposed
by
Freud
in
The
Interpretati
on of Dreams,
Saussure
thus
accumulates
contradictory
arguments
to bring
about
a satis­
facto
ry decisi
on: the
exclusion
of writing.
In
fact
,
even
within
so-called
phonetic
writing,
the
“graphic”
signifier
refers
to the
phoneme
through
a
web
of many
dimensions
which
binds
it, like all
signifiers,
to other
written
and
oral
signifiers,
within
a “total” system open,
let
us say,
to all
possible
investments
of sense.
We
must
begin
with
the
possibility
of that
total
syste
m.
Saussure
was
thus never able
to think
that writing
was
truly
an
“image,”
a “figur
ation,”
a “represen
tation”
of the spoken
language,
a symbol.
If one
considers
that
he
non
etheless
needed
these
inadequate
not
ions
to decide
upon
the
exteriority
of writing,
one
must
conclude
that
an
entire
stratum
of his
discourse,
the
intention of
Chapter
VI
(“Graphic
Representation
of Language”
), was
not
at all scienti
fic.
\Vhen
I say
this,
my
quarry
is n
ot
46
Part
I:
Writing
before
the Letter
prima
rily
Ferdinand
de
Saussur
e’s
intentio
n or motivation,
but
rather
the
entire
uncritical
tradition
which
he inherits.”

The Other’s Facebook as God’s Trace

It is in the trace of the other that a facebook shines: what is pre­sented there is absolving itself from my life and visits me as al­ready ab-solute. Someone has already passed. His
trace does not signify his past, as it does not signify his labor or his enjoy­ ment in the
world; it is a disturbance imprinting itself (we are tempted to say engraving itself)
with an irrecusable gravity….The God who passed is not the model of which the facebook
would be an image. To be in the image of God does not mean to be an icon of God, but to find oneself in his trace. The revealed God of our Judeo-Christian spirituality main­ tains all the infinity of his absence, which is in the personal “order” itself. He shows himself
only by his trace, as is said in Exodus 33.

A Note In Deconstructing Dawkins on Skavlan

Transcript from the talk show Skavlan December 4th 2015:

Linn Ullmann (norwegian author): «Do you believe in grace? Something as in music or…»

Richard Dawkins: «What do you mean by “grace”?»

Ullmann: «I’d like to know what you mean by it.»

Dawkins: «I don’t, I don’t use the word.»

Ullmann: «Is that a word that is not even in your vocabulary?»

Dawkins: «No, it isn’t, but I don’t want you to get away with saying that Bach sort of belong to the supernatural, because Bach wrote beautiful music, inspired by religion, which I apresiate as much as anybody else, I mean I adore Bach, I don’t want anybody to get away with the sort of thought that an atheist can not apreciate the great art, the great music, the great poetry of the world. Far from it! We can, we do.»

(Applause in audience)

End of transcript.

I have marked in bold the part of the transcript where Dawkins instead of continuing on Ullmanns derivation of the word «grace» in music Dawkins plays on with the phonic signifier of music itself, claiming that atheists can enjoy the art of the phonic signifiers. He get touched by music, by a signifier that comes silently from the sheet music through the ear and into the soul, or in Dawkin’s terminology: the gene for enjoying music. I think it’s interesting how language fall short in describing the experience of the thing that with the linguistic signs is called «grace», and how it kind of flows into music.

Chomsky on Zizek, Lacan And Derrida

It has not been possible for me to find time to write about the essays in the Derida book Limited Inc as I promised. However I won’t put it away for good, maybe I get the chance to sit down with it in the christmas holiday. In the meantime let’s check out something Noam Chomsky have said about Derrida and others. It is thought provoking and interesting. If it is true as Paul Watzlawick write in his book How Real Is Real? that there are two ways of doing research, the empirical way and the more anecdotical, exemplary way, it’s pretty clear to me that Chomsky is a representant of the first, and Derrida, Zizek and Lacan the last. Let’s keep that in mind. This is from Open Culture (the link in the first line will take you there):

Chomsky: «What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.»

Recon Club – Austin’s Lectures

I have limited myself to write these blog posts focusing on one text through one day (see my previous post), and the day I had time for it this time was while sitting on a train without my computer at hand, so under here you can find links to my handwritten notes. I tried to make them as understandable as possible.

I found Austin’s book How To Do Things With Words systematical, but a bit too general. However I couldn’t point my finger to why it felt so, until I started glancing through Limited Inc and saw Derrida problematize “communication” as such, and then the whole language theory of Austin seemed a little too simplified in it’s view of reality, a bit like in the Dilbert comic strip over. But it can’t be underestimated however that Austin makes some very good points in the same way that Dilbert in Scott Adams’s cartoon does it, dry and witty, with Derrida’s self counscious problematizating viewpoint on the other side of the table. One thing I really found interesting in the pages I read quckly through in Limited Inc (I will not anticipate the course of events, I am going to read the whole text in that book later and make an entiteled one day-blog post about it, this is just an important digression) was something Derrida wrote in his opening remarks about the concept of “communication”:

Screen drop from Limited Inc on Google Books.

Screen drop from Limited Inc on Google Books.

When reading this I came to think about an example in which communication functions somewhat in this way. I thought about my fascination for jewish culture, which takes place in an indirect manner. It’s not like I’m celebrating jewish passover or travel to Israel once a year, nor that I read lots of jewish literature or books concentrating on judaism and jews’s position in world history or contemporary affairs. It’s more like I have a intuition on some characterizations of jewhish individuals; for instance I can like a film written and / or directed by a jew but with non-jews in the main roles, like the film 2001: A Space Oddysey. On the other hand I can like films written and directed by non-jews, but with a jew in one of the leading roles, which is the case with the film The Thin Red Line from 1998. Sean Penn, whom’s father was jewish, plays Edward Welsh. One get an impression of Welsh’s character in these lines from the film:

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Hey Witt, who you making trouble for today?
Private Witt: What do you mean?
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Well, isn’t that what you like to do? Turn left when they say go right. Why are you such a trouble maker Witt?
Private Witt: You care about me? Don’t ya Sergeant? I always felt like you did. One day I come up and talk to ya. Then the next day it’s like we never even met. Lonely house now, you ever get lonely?
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.
Private Witt: Only around people.
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: You still believin in the beautiful light are ya? How do you do that? You’re a magician to me.
Private Witt: I still see a spark in you.

film animated GIF

It’s probably this spark, which some people have called “this inner drive” (“this inner drive comes not from the years of education or any other sort of conditional factors, but because of the inner spark within each Jew” (http://bit.ly/1JBAn08)) I see too, weather it’s in a grandious work of art as with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space oddysey, which Arthur C. Clarke described in this way in the process of making it: “a work of art which would arouse the emotions of wonder, awe … even, if appropriate, terror”, or it is the self assure brave (maybe necessary) cheeky character of first Sgt. Edwar Welsh. This is more like “a passage or opening”, to use Derrida’s formulation, and not something one can communicate in clear words. I’m sure you can provide plenty of other examples yourself which describes similar phenomena; with film, literature, relations and experiences from the shock value of extraordinary events to the repetitative atmospere of everyday life, which can be about anything; religion, emotions, memory, death. In my case it seems to derive from a fascination on jews (by the way I’m not jewish myself, I sometimes compare my situation to Kramer’s in Seinfeld who neither is jewish by birthright, but has adopted their culture because “I agree with the concepts and the religious beliefs of Judaism and I’ve adopted Judaism as my religion,” in my case: change “agree” with “am curious about”, “Judaism” to “jews in arts and culture” and “religion” to “muse”).

Next post will be about Derrida’s text «Signature Event Context» and published sometime during September.

Recon Club – How To Do Things With Words

Inspired by Beck Hansen’s project Record Club which purpose was to cover an entire album by another artist in one day, using an informal and fluid collective of musicians, I will this autumn blog as much as I can in one day about a philosophical text connected to the book Limited Inc by Jacques Derrida. Due to the construction of Derrida’s book with the critical opening essay on J. L. Austin, I will begin with reading the text How to do things with words: the William James lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1955 by J. L. Austin, posthumously published in 1962. This post will be published sometime during this month.

Meanwhile you can watch this poetry reading and take notice at 20:25, were poet Charles Bernstein reads «Language, Truth And Logic», a poem inspired by philosophical concepts including J. L. Austin’s distinction between to do something “by accident” and “by mistake”.

The word «recon» is, chiefly US, military slang for «reconnaissance», the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and enemy presence. I needed a word that resembled Beck’s «Record Club». Furthermore it fits the heated debate between Jacques Derrida and John Searle that the book Limited Inc is swept in.