Thursday, March 09, 2006
Malcolm Bradbury, in his book on Henri Mensonge's underappreciated role in the development of structuralism and deconstruction, recaps the story of those movements as they overcame the Cartesian subject.
[I]t soon became clear that if it was possible to deconstruct the author as a person the same argument ought to work with anyone, or indeed everyone. The decisive implications of this were developed by Michel Foucault, who was shortly able to prove that we all of us lived in the age of the total disappearance of the subject. As he put it, 'The researches of psycho-analysis, of linguistics, of anthropology have "decentered" the subject in relation to the laws of its desire, the forms of language, the rules of its actions, or the play of its mythical and imaginative discourse.' The disappearance of the subjecct was another enormous step, of considerable relevance to the fate of Mensonge. But these were still the early days of the argument, which was further refined by the Deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, who was able to demonstrate with a totally convincing philosophical obscurity that all concepts of 'presence', 'identity', 'self' and the like were fabrications, desperate attempts to retain the attached signifier when it had departed long ago.

In a series of bold transverse moves, Derrida had soon demolished the entire heresy of the proper noun, showing that the names we signed on cheques were not our own or anyone else's either, and eliminating the metaphysics of all forms of presence under any pretext whatsoever. All that was left was a persistent deferral of identity, a kind of foreplay to existence without the satisfaction of an outcome, apparently increasingly popular in France. It had been made clear that everything had been deconstructed, and that the proper noun, the author, the self, the book, the object, the reader, the referent, the real, were all floating items of signification without a base. This bold sequence of philosophical developments made for clarity and brought us to where we are today, wherever that may be.
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