09:53, Friday 19 Nov., 2004 Link
Yesterday evening, thanks to Matt Ward (if we get on it's only because our names are similar), I went to my first Derrida seminar, on Derrida's response to Heidegger's analysis of death. You know, for kicks.
It was a somewhat desperate grab (desperate is a bit strong about someone who appears to enjoy perverse contradictions and lies in their own text) for something, anything objectively real, some kind of rock to hang onto.
I wasn't really there to hear about death. I was there to swim in the language. There were some beautiful turns of phrase, "inflecting the text," words setting fire to one another. I had to fall back to manifolds to get a handle on anything, this isn't my territory, but at the same time I know that misses the point: Previously I've merely discussed, using words [and n-branes of words, poetry almost, but you know what I mean]. But this text wrung meaning from the use and separation of words. Take a text, retell it and inflect it, the gap between the two is strung with taut meaning like the chewing gum from the bottom of your shoe stretched from the floor. To talk about the impossible - my death - contort language to summon up inconsistencies and impossible statements, and manipulate those, refusing analogy. While our brains have to be physically consistent, the language represented therein needn't hold together--take advantage of that. I had expected, by reputation, something like this of Derrida, but I didn't realise precisely what I'd encounter, it's a little epiphany to finally see it. It's a viscious technique, in a way, savage and disrespectful. And viscous too, swimming through language is like swimming through a machine of gears and chains.
Here's the thing. When I got home, late, I bought a deep-filled cheese pizza from Tesco, in an unconscious tribute to Sartre's omelettes, and I put it in the oven and ate it. After two hours of the impossibility of considering one's death, it seemed appropriate to take weeks off my life with a bowl of melted cheese. (Which somehow, also, makes me more authentic.)
Last night I nightmared of death and time, of trying to come to terms with the briefness of life if (but given I wasn't/won't be around in the rest of time, how can I say 'brief'), whether it matters, whether you get scared at the point of death, wondering how I can simultaneously be scared of the ultimate nature of death and of ghosts in the dark. I prefer the magic of ghosts I think, they at least hold out the promise of the escape from embodiment and hitting the singularity. In short, I got the existential heebie jeebies, which either means I think too much, or I really did have too much cheese for dinner.
On philosophy, and my future. I enjoy this stuff, but I enjoy it as purist exercise. I'm a physicist not a mathematician. And I enjoy the tools wielded by the sociologists and anthropologists, and I enjoy their arguments and discoveries, but I want to use and understand, not necessarily further. It's just quite evident that the philosophy I can wave in the air, apply, and recombine, it all comes out of other subjects: architecture, psychoanalysis, anthropology [some time ago]. I like science, and things which become [and the patterns of becomings]; I like puns and language, I can operate in design and in cybernetics [what cybernetics was, not what it is today]. I believe that the cyberneticians anticipated the present day from three decades ago, but because of social dynamics they didn't communicate their ideas and have them artistically bound. Cybernetics is our weapon against Fordism and the conduit metaphor (at least, a certain conception of cybernetics). I like practice. I like analogy, and (in whatever I end up doing) will have to mount a defense of analogy. To make one now: The way Derrida operates inside language instead of over it, I want a philosophy (or rather, a way of doing philosophy) which is of embodiment (embodiment of all kinds, including the nonhuman) instead of happening over it. Where can I find that? What can I do? Where can I start?