A Comparative analysis of complimentary Meta-Narratives existent between Taoism and Lyotard’s Differend
“ The Tao cannot be heard; that which is heard is not it. The Tao cannot be seen; that which is seen is not it. The Tao cannot be formulated; that which is formulated is not it. That which gives birth to forms is without form. The Tao should not be named.” (1)
Q: What exactly should not be named?
A: “ That which is (named) the ‘Tao' should not be named.”
Q: But didn’t you just name it? Didn't you just refer to something you say should not be referred to...by referring to it?
A: “ Whoever answers someone who questions him about the Tao does not know the Tao. The very fact of asking questions about the Tao shows that one has not yet even heard the Tao spoken about.” (2)
Hear that? I don't know if that's the beeping of my bullshit meter, my paradigm shifting, or the sound of my head exploding in a paper bag.
1.) So, the teacher who gave me this assignment is either oblivious to the inherent failure of my ever meeting the challenge of coherent explication of terms, or
2). Knows that my dedication to the production of a scholarly essay of the subject matter he suggested is in fact an exercise in futility tantamount to the repetitious labors of Hades.
"The Tao Cannot Be Heard”
May it then be reasonable to assume that what ever "cannot be heard" makes it a subject impossible to speak of, or write about? I claim no expertise at all in whether discussing something which defies any discussion of it may actually be discussed. Thus, if the subject of this essay can neither be written, spoken nor heard, then the intelligent thing to do would be to stop approximately here. Of course I won’t do that for reasons already implied.
“ The truth is that the Tao abides neither questions nor answers to questions. To ask questions about the Tao, which does not admit questions, is to consider it as a finite thing. To give answers about the Tao (edit: the what?), which does not contain any answers, is to consider it as a thing devoid of innerness. Whoever gives answers about that which does not have innerness and asks questions about that which is finite does not grasp either the outer universe or its inner origin. He does not cross Mount K’un-lun; he does not go as far as supreme emptiness. ” (3)
And so it goes (without saying?) that there are more than a few "things between heaven and earth" rather elusive of human comprehension (the foregoing paraphrase notwithstanding).
But we would not thereby fail to acknowledge that what has sometimes been passed off as profound paradox, or as subjects simply beyond the limitations of human comprehension (and therefore explication) are, upon closer inspection, often found to be little more than nonsensical propositions, or simply contradictions shrouded in the mysteries of occultic enigmas.
However, if we are more patient than judgmental vis-à-vis such elusive circumstances, we may anticipate an intellectual challenge inclusive of multiple ontological dimensions (i.e., of metaphysical, logical, epistemological, aesthetic and of course, linguistic inputs).
Or perhaps we will have found ourselves in error for having posited undue credulity to claims which admit no discourse whatsoever, and might have simply "pass(ed) over them in silence." This of course may be our disposition by default. A disposition eventually to be condemned . Until it comes to comforting myths.
In any case, were we allowed one slightly rhetorical interrogative, we might ask of the Taoist:
“What can possibly be said about that which (discursively) admits no discourse?” Put another way: “Given the discursive restrictions of your own claim, how is it that you (the Taoist) of all people, are somehow miraculously endowed to know what the hell you‘re not talking about?”
Similar to the Tao which cannot be named, one is likewise challenged by post-modernist claims of the existence of “differends.”
“ The 'differend' is the unstable state and instant of language wherein something which must be able to be put into phrases cannot yet be. […] This state is signaled by what one ordinarily calls a feeling: ‘One cannot find the words,’ etc.” (4)
Today, for example, there are psychiatric patients who have a difficult time explaining to others how they “feel” as though they have a “waterfall” in their brain; suggesting only one instance of the inevitable indeterminacy of feeling-based perception. How does one convince someone who believes such a thing? Or anything else for that matter. Why bother attempting to reason with someone who believes his spirit will hitch a ride on the tail end of a comet if he commits suicide at just the right time. Extreme, you say? How about negotiating with those who believe having water sprinkled over their heads, or wearing small boxes on their heads, or believing that G_d is going to come back, some sweet day, and make everything okay, that is, by giving THEM authority over the rest of us less-Godly human beings? Can you negotiate with that? No. You will never negotiate with those who think they are better than you in any other way than by adopting a similar delusion about the supremacy of yourself and/or your own culture. In this world you are either the hammer or the nail. No true system of justice or equality has ever existed in this world, nor will it ever. Because, nature.
But we find, when it comes to founding one's epistemological theory solely upon “feeling,” in any ideologically-democratic construct and/or context, the question may be: "What, if any, purely-aesthetic based weltanschauung is not already and always legitimated merely for the sake of its plausible deniability? You may anticipate me here: We simply Kant imagine.
And so, how does one go about legislating aesthetics? And to whom or what ultimate authority do we submit our lives for leadership and indoctrination? Who gets to dictate what in this weird world everyone in it should like or dislike? Religion? Ideology? Science? Technology? Which burden of proof are you most comfortable with defending? Which do you think should be censored or destroyed?
Also, how have the administrations of these systems worked out so far? Where does your faith lie? Or rather, which lie do you believe?
Obviously there would need be continuous maintenance updates of juridical protections for incalculable divergences of likes and dislikes based on feelings and opinions. Never mind the improbability of adequate congressional representation, nor the remote possibility of there ever being a consensus of collective unanimity. At least, not when it comes to aesthetic tastes. Yet.
The reality however is, I think, vastly more complex than even post-modernists attempt to correct by nullifying: racial and cultural bias, obsolete institutional programming, obsolete religions, the very conspicuously shifty polity itself are all hardly to be casually eschewed when publishing a philosophical critique upon such highly-venerated pillars of practically every social contract ever constructed.
A much more interesting challenge is how one might discourse at length about nothing (my interpretation), and say something not only meaningful, but more or less intelligible about it (viz., nothingness), whilst leaving one's "feelings" out of the interrogation. One learns there are things, no-things, beings, non-being, ideas and situations perceived to be present in reality the exact measurements of which are often immediately evaded due, to greater and lesser degrees, to the inadequacy of instrumentation. Within the inherent limitations of language (code) one can never quite adequately formulate the question much less elucidate with the utility of words, however eloquent our articulations, however beautifully constructed our code.
Such difficulty arises when one attempts to define the Platonic Idea of, for example, “chair.” Since no one has ever seen, nor sat upon, the perfect representation of "chair," it is therefore rendered quite beyond the limits of linguistic description and therefore construction. Indeed, there are numerous things/beings/ideas/events/situations populating the "reality" of the world which appear to not only defy hermeneutic consensus concerning practically anything, however interminable the dialogue (e.g., God, Love, Truth, Justice, Good, Evil, Freedom, Freud’s Sub-conscious, Marx’s Emancipation of Labor, Kant’s Sublime, Lyotard’s Differend, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, etc). How is it possible to ever arrive at a consensus upon the definition of a nothingness which permits no interpretation at all?
But what must we "pass over in silence" that hasn’t already been written about at great length? Is it characteristic in the course of human enterprise to do precisely that which it is forbidden to do? The answer should shock no one. Is it at least permissible that, since such a multiplicity of interpretations obtain the status of legitimacy within an ever-expanding range of contexts, and since no single or collective interpretation (Edit: thankfully) inevitably prevails, one might rationally adopt an attitude of Nihilism? Lets face it: from such perspective all voices eventually become nothing more than tintinnabulation.
About That of Which One Cannot Speak
So as to avoid appearing dogmatic authoritarians often make statements which appear dogmatic in themselves: “The sublime is a crisis where we realize the inadequacy of the imagination and reason to each other (the differend); we are straining the mind at the edges of itself and its conceptualization.” (5)
Speaking of The Unspeakable
I think I have now reached a state of sublimity (Zen?) so incapacitating that I am unable to discourse without doing further violence to the integrity of the subject under question. Nothing I could ever utter could possibly suffice to elucidate (much less explicate) the essential features of either the Differend or the Tao. But how has it come to this? Anything I would say would only distract from, if not further obfuscate, that which permits no linguistic expression. If one speaks, one thereby deceives. This is my current differend, as it were, and I must concede to a stalemate. However, I am not so intimidated as to fail to ponder, out loud, in a state of exasperation, what I might possibly have done differently. What follows therefore can only amount to that pondering.
Being a product manufactured within the diametrically opposed parameters of the so-called, "Judaeo-Christian paradigm" of so-called, "Western Civilization" (and the blatant contradictions inherent in both designations), one is simply left to ponder an insurmountable impasse, and proceed to wander the lengths and breadths of some other conceptual cul de sac. But this is philosophy. I need not here delve into the several formidably antithetical failures of Classical, Modernist and Post-Modernist epistemologies but, parenthetically, let it be rationally conceded that: for every technological advancement considered advantageous to the human race, there inevitably emerge (with no less currency, no less methodological certainty) a concomitant proliferation of effects precisely obverse to that originally intended.
And now, as the penultimate deity in our crumbling Modernist pantheon, the very Logos itself, heaves its last breath beneath the sword of Damocles, and as the mad post-mod iconoclast pauses to contemplate his most formidable of stubborn delusions: the apotheosized Self. But no less here we are abandoned again by the whiplash of techne; that is (Greek: τέχνη, tékhnē, 'craft, art'; Ancient Greek: [tékʰnɛː], Modern Greek: [ˈtexni]). It is certainly not the case that this author was ever convinced that he required the escort services of priest, poet, politician, or philosophical sophist (or whatever bastard amalgamations thereof) to pronounce his personal transcendence over dominant mythical symbols of western civilization; e.g., the Garden of Eden (i.e., ignorance, naiveté, innocence). Nor from its hardly-less-mystical philosophic incarnations variously presented in the didactics of some periodically promised socioeconomic emancipation (e.g., Platonic, Gnostic, Kantian, Hegelian, Marxian and whatever other esoteric language-game of ideological transcendence; whatever other teleological narrative pointing the way to some ethereal Land of Make-Believe forever floating always out there beyond accessibility). All such "promised-lands" are not only vacant, they've become utterly and irredeemably vacuous. We may suppose that the human condition, or rather, the mechanism (will) that sparks human ingenuity and activity, prerequisite-Ly requires the impetus of certain in-substantive ideals (myths), not unlike a stubborn mule might require the inspiration of a dangling carrot, or a whip, in order that it might be compelled to move.
In any case, our iconoclast would had already come to sufficiently realize the interminable differends inherent in even the most cursory survey of his own ontological condition (without ever having wandered so trustingly into that Hall of Mirrors otherwise known as "academia"). No doubt he never really required the scholarly analyses of deep philosophical theories to acutely comprehend an inherent diversity and equanimity amongst the numerous world views spread out across this vast landscape of time and space and now quite de-legitimized "Grand Narratives."
Note to Lyotard: Epistemological absurdity is hardly to be intelligently “legitimized” just because it happens to have become a popular trend among academic heathens and socialist iconoclasts; and an unnecessary obfuscation (i.e., occultic knowledge) amongst the population at large. Same thing's happened before, since the beginning of human discourse, with every other previously highly-venerated presumptions of authority assumed by one religious and/or ideological super-power superstition or another. In other words, when you've properly de-constructed the "Grand Narrative" of any given culture you've already thereby substituted your own. The essence of Critical Theory. Which also will be summarily de-constructed.
Noble Truth # 2
As it turns out, I've destroyed many a draft for lack of articulating the appropriate phrasing (reminded that the very aegis of articulation itself being utterly subject to fraudulence).
The problem I'm having with writing anything at all about Taoism, and why I find it vague and contradictory (no doubt due to resistant forces of my own erroneous Westernized paradigm) has resulted in my floundering now upon the shoreline of a static state.
Same with Lyotard’s “differend.” The problem here, if the reflective judgment is always-already a priori to cognitive judgment (a la Kant’s Third Critique), then the ground of all reason disappears utterly into the subjective/aesthetic, and the “differend” is an inescapable condition precisely due to its definitive sublimity. There is no proper “language,” so to speak, with which to isolate (much less describe) that which interminably resists Logos. Whether it's Taoism, Post-modernism or any other theological or popular philosophical trend.
Were I to turn in a blank sheet of paper, I will have more accurately represented the noumenal aspects of both theories.
Postscript - Under Construction
I have no argument against aforementioned theories because I am not to imagine the sufficiency of language to do so; precisely by the insufficiency of criteria of each. Epistemological certainty concerning a comprehensive “understanding” of these expressions of human rationality is a residual romanticism of modernist and post-modernist thought; and quite obviously, another promise from these narrative genres of discourse unfulfilled. I can no more succeed in describing the various modes of cognition required, herein emphasized, than I can adequately explain what I find aesthetically appealing about e.g., the flight of pelicans, and here I think lies the Taoists’ contention, to wit: If I actually could describe it, it would no longer be what it is.
How much more ridiculous then to presume to describe how the human mind/psyche/soul works; i.e., all psychological pseudo-science (shamanism); all theology, philosophy, psychiatry, spiritualism and even the hard determinism of neuroscience (and variegates thereof) combined are powerless to sufficiently explain to me why, for example, Samuel Barber's “Adagio for Strings” elicits such an overwhelming ontological response from pre-reflective cognition.
And all the Occidentalist language-games of esp., Plato, Kant, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sartre, Lyotard, Derrida, et al, however well intentioned, however learned and revered have only further obfuscated that which is utterly, irrefutably inexplicable, and therefore amount only to so much nonsense. Just as is this essay. To a post-modernist, this condition is precisely what escaped Descartes (and by extension, his progeny) in all his less-than-authentic exposition of the subjective. Lesson (as yet) to be learned: one cannot be both the student and thing-studied without resorting to solipsism (which I am told is a very bad thing). It's a task as irrational as the contemporary myth of "multi-tasking."
Ever since the dawn of recorded logos, and no doubt due to the similarities of abstractions and interrogatives therein, the texts of religion and philosophy have often appeared somewhat indistinguishable. Plato presents to posterity the most famous example of this merger, and practically all philosophical argument since then has either been ever more sophisticated refinement of the idealizations of his dialogues, or the Quixotic impulse of epistemological refutation by academicians pontificating against them. Thus, the presupposition to answer questions of an ontological nature appear just as absurd as the attempts to engage logic and reason as means to argue against such presuppositions. So, who is the more ridiculous? The person who believes a little man lives behind his refrigerator? Or the person who tries to convince that person that what he believes is not possible? Such a condition represents the terminus of any presumption of distinction between theology and philosophy. The very attempt to present rational arguments against an irrational world view is, in the very attempt, a most poignant example of irrationality. Thus, the whole project, that is, from presupposition to interrogation to refutation becomes the sound of dry leaves at the terminus of indeterminability.
So, we return to our former query and ask again, "What exactly then cannot be named?" According to Wittgenstein: “What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”
Part Two: Absolute Conditions of Discourse: the surest way to corrupt a thought is to verbalize it. A metaphysics of absence starts by investigating the possible intrusions of absence once its domain has been established (by the negation of the presences of being).
Marx and Freud offer easy examples. After all their deep and penetrating economic and psychological analyses, both had summarized their work and exhorted their readers in mythological and symbolic language. Describing the redemptive struggle of the suffering-servant proletarian class, or our personally necessary descent into the unconscious realm where we must contend with childhood traumatic demons before ascending, reborn, into newly authentic life, these determined heroes of rationalism could not help echoing classic religious myth. “They were devoted to the imaging of reality and the value-ordering of the good life provided by our general culture.”
In contemporary Western philosophy, magic (techne) is too often regarded as based on an inferior type of “false” cognition. It is true that childhood cognition is inferior to mature adult thinking, but on what does this maturity largely depend? On a multiple, multi-channeled, inner, conscious communication between the ante-rational, rational and intuition-al aspects of our experience of reality (called “experience of life”). This simultaneous approach is only possible if an integration has taken place, causing a functional co-operation between all the different layers of cognition.
Clearly reason is at the “heart” of cognition, but not without taking into account all other cognitive architectures which are actively taking part in the cognitive process as well, but which are not a member of the operational categorical conditions demanded by reason. Hieroglyphs were always more than just a writing system. The Egyptians referred to it as “writing the divine words” or “divine words”, whereas the individual icons was termed “image” or “form”, the same word for a representation in Egyptian art, showing its relationship with pictoral art. Indeed, like art, the script works with pictures and they all have a well-defined form. Governed by strict rules as to content and representation, it had as its purpose to make the depicted exist eternally. In the Old Kingdom, the relationship between art and writing is consistent. In fact, it was a system of art endowed with magical characteristics. How to represent the unrepresentable Terms: Deontic: relating to MORAL OBLIGATION; deontology: theories of moral obligation; the study of how one goes about developing an argument designed to convince people (who frequently haven’t the time nor inclination to care) that stabbing one another in the neck with a serrated kitchen knife is an extremely unsophisticated thing to do. Denotation: indication, designation (denotes, indicates, designates). Connotation: (literary def.) association, suggestion, implication; (logical def.) essential property (suggesting [or making essential] a certain legitimization of ratiocination for denoting [?] an essential [?] differentiation in both interpretation and usage by [at least] two contextually divergent approaches to epistemological certainty).
To analyze, or discourse about Taoism: the very attempt is immediately compromised, and therein denied access, by the application of linguistic signification, a method which the very concept itself (literally) repudiates…by way of the same methodology. Whatever “meaning” one may assign to the Tao is invalidated by the very imposition of an always/already inadequate construction of verbal representation (artifice). The Tao is above description, beyond comprehension. Whatever I might write about the Tao is already rendered invalid by the sheer fact of the inadequacy of my instruments, and the illegitimacy of my method. Therefore Taoism must be passed over in silence. But is it, too, contextually determined? “One side’s legitimacy does not imply the other’s lack of legitimacy. However, applying a single rule of judgment to both in order to settle their differend as though it were merely a litigation would wrong (at least) one of them (and both of them if neither side admits this rule).”
Jean François Lyotard: “I would like to call a differend the case where the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes for that reason a victim." “Suppose that an earthquake destroys not only lives, buildings, and objects but also the instruments used to measure earthquakes directly and indirectly. The impossibility of quantitatively measuring it does not prohibit, but rather inspires in the minds of the survivors the idea of a very great seismic force. The scholar claims to know nothing about it, but the common person has a complex feeling, the one aroused by the negative presentation of the indeterminate.” In this sense, Auschwitz is the destruction of experience itself. What remains after Auschwitz is the witness-survivor who gives testimony to the unthinkable, the unpresentable. It remains a question whether this way of phrasing the Holocaust itself does not succumb to the seduction of the negative sublime, which places Auschwitz and Nazi Genocide outside of all possible rational discourse.
“Kant’s final word here offers an explanation of our persistent desire to transcend from the phenomenal realm to the noumenal. We must impose the forms of space and time on all we perceive, we must suppose that the world we experience functions according to natural laws, we must regulate our conduct by reference to a self-legislated categorical imperative, and we must postulate the noumenal reality of ourselves, god, and free will — all because a failure to do so would be an implicit confession that the world may be meaningless, and that would be utterly intolerable for us. Thus, Kant believed, the ultimate worth of his philosophy lay in his willingness “to criticize reason in order to make room for faith.”
Kant’s Third Critique Of relevance here is one particular kind of judgment that Kant concerns himself with in the Third Critique. As opposed to determinate judgments, which involve subsuming the particular under a universal or concept which is already given, reflective judgments move from the particular towards a rule which does not yet exist. This notion of looking for a rule or concept which does not already exist is possibly what Lyotard alludes to here. Could not have unanimous judgment when using reflective concepts (i.e., when making reflective judgments, as in art) — further echoes of Kant, therefore, in 3, p. 4.
Even within each of us, differends operate. For example, a person’s relation to his or her infant stage manifests an internal differend. Nothing has been resolved between the adult and the infant, two conflicting genres of discourse inhabit every grown individual. The state of silence, the child before language, then the coming into language and our memory of it; these two stages together in a subject create a differend that has been resolved with the result of a wrong.
Thus, there is a relation within ourselves which allows us to recognize differends without. [Freud and Marx still bear some presence in JFL’s work.] [Discussing the nature of wrongs, referencing the predicament of anthropological studies and the inevitable wrongs which occur through some anthropologists’ presumptions about language] JFL would say that the consequences which follow such untranslatability include genocide.
By calling his book “The Differend” . . . The very title by itself is heterogeneous. It names that which cannot be reunited or subsumed. It makes a universal category of the un-categorizable.
On "There is no 'language' in general, except as the object of an Idea.” “Idea” here is most likely a reference to Kant’s notion of a regulative Idea, which, as opposed to a constitutive Idea, only pursues something at the asymptotic limit; never actually reaches it. (Note: Regulative ideas guide concepts or thought towards, as Kant says, a “locus imaginarius”;language, for JFL, would be one such loci?)
Regarding the mode of reference, how it is determined and what role the phrase regimen or genre of discourse has in determining that mode, JFL seems to be responding to the poststructuralists’ argument that there is no getting outside of language; like Derrida, JFL wants to maintain the possibility of referring to objects outside of language, to things in the world, but he does not want the establishment of reference to be controlled by a narrow genre of denotation such as, say, Russell constructed. But is it the phrase regimen or genre of discourse, then, which regulates the mode of reference? [From others:] The answer is, “both.”
We landed rather quickly in the Protagoras Notice. Discussion here particularly of the series: the logical operator which solves a dilemma in frames of reference by limiting the cases in question to those which precede the current moment. Stress on the logical solution (Russell) that this represents. This brought us to Kant’s distinction between dogmatists, who maintain that they are not part of the series upon which they comment etc., and historicists (empiricists) who include themselves fully within the series upon which they comment. JFL here seems to favor a third option, that of “criticism” as presented by Kant (Critique of Pure Reason);this representing a middle ground, neither fully within nor fully outside of the series. >p>The indefinite synthetic series (end of Protagoras Notice): JFL’s preference/predilection for Kant’s model from development of discourse rather than that of Hegel or Marx. Protagoras and the necessity for understanding what appears to be an absurdity to see that one case needs to be dis-included from (found to be incompatible with) the set of all previous similar cases … (n + 1). Questions here about where JFL really stands with respect to Protagoras’s logic.
The notice is introduced by (a skeptical or polemical?) mention of a dilemma or double bind, reference here also to the “Palo Alto School,” i.e., Gregory Bateson, Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia: the child is held guilty by the parent whatever he/she does (cf. “cheville” above). Also to this as a “linchpin of Hegelian dialectical logic,” that of “applying two logical operators: exclusion and implication” to “two contradictory propositions”: thus “either it is white or it is not white, and if it is white, it is not white” (p.6, section 8).
Does the (non-)resolution of the dilemma represent some middle ground (if/then alternative beyond either/or or and), or is this a straw man? Suggestion that perhaps this is related to contraries according to Aristotle. We went from the Protagoras notice to the Plato notice (to return later to the Gorgias notice, situated between the two). Discussion of metalepsis: one idea floated was that in the same way that the funeral orations that Plato finds impious because of their use of metalepsis (through which the addressees are spoken to as if they were gods), Plato himself covers over the agonistic nature of his dialogues. He does this by requiring that the dialogues begin with agreement, one that makes it unnecessary to have either witness or judge: unworthy partners are made into worthy ones through Socrates’ speaking for them: by this means the selection (a loaded word?) that is part of Socrates’ method can take place under wraps.
We, though, the readers (unworthy as we may be, since we are not party to the living word that is this supposed dialogue;removed as we are from the real thing), are the witness or judge (see p.26; §5 (“Metalepsis”) of Plato notice), the third party “dedicated to agonistics, that is, to three-way games” (26).
“Need we admit,” JFL asks, “a dynamics of dialogue which would absorb differends through metalepses and which would lead, if not to a consensus concerning the referents, then at least to a common language” (p.26, last para. of Plato notice).Isn’t JFL here suggesting that names in general have a kind of Nazi component to them, in that they cover things up? This idea seems to gain support from JFL’s later remarks to the effect that one should attempt to not “be in the name.” JFL’s sentence: “But then, the historian must break with the monopoly over history granted to the cognitive regimen of phrases, and he or she must venture forth by lending his or her ear to what is not presentable under the rules of knowledge” (§93). JFL suggests not that we should try to overcome the differend, which is always operative, but to make up for the incommensurable situation of the relationship between the name and the referent;this will be the duty of memory and of witnessing after the fact, belatedly [après coup], both by survivors and witnesses of survivors.
Naming is never pointing to something that is within the regime;referents are not within the language world. JFL is echoing Derrida here… On the sentence which begins, “But the reality of the wrong . . .”] JFL’s use of “consensus” here invokes this chapter’s overarching argument: The use of cognitive and logical phrases relies on a “common language,” just as consensus would . . . the use of cognitive and logical phrases for the establishment of a wrong is thus highly problematic. Thus, “the shades . . . continue to wander in their indeterminacy.”
Experience is something that is very much linked to the presence in its performance. JFL thinking of feeling in the Kantian sense, but also conjunction with what he says about the memory of childhood, of infancy. For JFL, feeling is somehow a projection that I can make, in the present, about the/my future and that comes to me through anamnesis from my infancy;the relationship between feeling and the now is far more complicated than the relationship between experience and the now.
Experience is something that has no depth except insofar as I can make a discourse about it. JFL is now turning back (from an analysis of feeling) to language, and to the way that language creates, as something outside of itself, the meaning, the referent, and the addressee. None of them are exactly poles in language. The referent is something open-ended, a sign for something which isn’t in language. The addressee is “receiving” this thing (the referent) which is not itself linguistic. Thus, referent and feeling are here analogues, in that the addressee “receives” these things which are not technically “in” language. The result as shit; the result is shit; all that remains of the demand for result is such a remainder, such a remains. This does seems to be the assertion JFL makes when he pits a certain skepticism excoriated by Hegel in the Phenomenology against Hegelís own brand of speculative dialectics (or discourse) at the end of §154. Hegels answer to the question of what a result would be is given in the Encyclopedia ¶82.
Skepticism, then, becomes the philosophical stance that JFL advocates; the stance associated with saving the honor of thinking This skepticism is the quibbling or equivocating or ratiocinating thought that Hegel associates with being and saying nothing (cf. Hegel Notice §2, ¶2). Lyotard appears to be saying that it is the only position that can come close to being where the result of Auschwitz was (how else can one interpret the belatedness of this passage? ¶5). “We”/”Beautiful death”/ Skepticism §156 Begins a study of the models of death in order to bring out in the open what was negated in Auschwitz.
The paradox implicit in the Athenian concept of “Beautiful death” (“the exchange of the finite for the infinite, of the eschaton for the telos: the Die in order not to die” (100). It seems to imply that “Auschwitz” as an event performed two negations: first it negated any possibility of a “beautiful death for the deportees; second, it set out to negate any possibility of their speaking their polymorphous phrases by forcing them into a “we.” § 155 “Would this be a case of a dispersion worse than the Diaspora, the dispersion of phrases?” (98). The discursive that subsumes the polymorphous into the “we” is for Lyotard a marker of primitivism. Primitive societies would include those based in the nation state. The textual presence of a “we” raises suspicion and a “certain skepticism.”
Pagus: border zone where genres of discourse enter into conflict to be continued
1). Cheng, Francois, Empty and Full: The Language of Chinese Painting, trans. Michael H. Kohn (Boston: Shambhala, 1994).
4). Lyotard, Jean-Francois, The Differend - Phrases in Dispute
6). Blanchard, Marc, “Never Say Why?” in Diacritics, Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer, 1979, pp. 17-29.