Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Transcendental Ontologism and Derrida's Reading of Husserl

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Transcendental Ontologism and Derrida's Reading of Husserl

Article excerpt

THE PROSPECT OF DIALOGICAL MEDIATION IN THE DISPUTE BETWEEN HUSSERLIANS AND DERRIDEANS

It is perhaps no accident that at the precise juncture of Speech and Phenomena where Derrida characterizes the "move" that is to be problematized in his reading of Husserl, a move with "the starting point to be found in the precomprehension of the sense of a word, the privilege of the question, `what is . '?," Heidegger is mentioned.1 Specifically, Heidegger's "meditation" on the historical configuration of the reversals of naive ontology by classical metaphysics and ontology is mentioned, and mentioned in terms of one of its "most enduring themes" (SP, p. 26), which, for Derrida, is the continuance of metaphysics through (and perhaps in spite of) these reversals. Despite Derrida's apparent approbation of the Heideggerian meditation, Heidegger's evocation at this critical juncture in Derrida's reading of Husserl is accompanied by the following somewhat cryptic remark: "it only by a superficial reading of Heidegger's texts that one could conclude that these texts themselves fall under these, Heidegger's, own objections" (ibid.). Indeed, while Derrida thinks, "without being able to go into it . . . that no one before has better escaped them," he nevertheless cautions that "this does not mean, of course, that one often escapes them afterwards" (ibid.).

One cannot help wondering with respect to the meaning of this cryptic text of Derrida's whether Heidegger's complicated and seemingly ambivalent relationship to Husserl's phenomenology, to this phenomenology's "breakthrough discovery," looms on the horizon, not so much as context but as pretext, for Derrida's own complicated and seemingly ambivalent relationship to Husserl's phenomenology. Indeed, to the extent that it could be maintained that Heidegger's question asks not simply about the Being of entities (beings), but about the meaning of the Being of entities, about the possibility of encountering both entities and their Being in the mode of phenomena, it would appear that, however critical the stance of his thinking may appear with respect to the actuality of phenomenology as a movement, the specter of phenomenology's possibility, of its Husserlian possibility, must remain as the pretext for Heidegger's question. Likewise, then, for Derrida, to the extent that his reading of Husserl, of the tradition, addresses the issue of the meaning of a sign in general, the issue of significative "showing" as such, it would appear that, again, however critical his reading of Husserl on signs and showing, of Husserl's signs and showing, the specter of phenomenology, in the guise not only of its Husserlian possibility but of its putative encounter by Heidegger as an actuality in need of renewed possibilizing, must remain as the pretext for Derrida's reading.

Be this as it may, my concern in what follows will not be to pursue the pretext or pretexts for Derrida's reading of Husserl; nor, for that matter, to pursue the pretext(s) for a Husserlian response to Derrida's reading of Husserl. I am interested in something that is, perhaps, rather different. To wit, my concern is something like this: why do able readers of the same texts and insightful thinkers of the same issues or matters themselves seem to come to such very different conclusions regarding both what these texts say and how these matters appear? More specifically, why do Husserl's texts appear for some readers to be spellbound by the equation of Being with presence, of signification with non-indicative simple meaning, with the result that these texts appear hell-bent on explaining the constitution of the terms of these equations by always framing them within the finite subjective genesis of an ideality that is yielded by the iterative/repetitive passage to a limit? And why for others does such a reading itself appear spellbound by an ontologization of a nuance, a nuance whose essence legislates against the very terms of these equations as well as against their putative constitutive genesis? …

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