On Derridas Strategem of différance

Derivatives are always also about a differentiality that is displaced and shifting in time, whereby one can paraphrase this with Derrida’s stratagem of „différance,“ which he introduced in his writing Randgänge der Philosophie. For Derrida, the stratagem of différance already combines the medial forms of displacement and difference: the first „moment“ is constituted here by the second. This is by no means a difference constituted by fixed positive terms (whose presence is thus presupposed); rather, différance emphasizes difference and the forces of an activity, „to postpone something until later, to account for time and forces in an operation, to do the reckoning that implies economic calculation, detour, postponement, delay, reserve, representation, all terms that I summarize here in a word that I have never used but that could be inserted into this chain: temporization.“ But différance still neutralizes even the active aspect of being active, and thus actually announces a new medial form that does not contain a concept, but rather holds the possibility for any conceptual system in the first place. If the concepts are constituted by the différance, then they divert each other, so to speak, to necessarily produce a not complete determination, indeed an indetermination, that is, a displacement of identity that delays or postpones any presumed identity of the concept to itself, or, to put it differently, one speaks of a concept that never arrives. The différance is always only crossed out that which presents the present, and thus it exists beyond the categories of being and non-being.
One must immediately interject here, however, that Derrida makes the stratagem of différance absolute, so to speak. Deconstruction includes an absolute process, but this is at the same time deeply imbued with differential relativity; thus, it cannot be „defined“ as absolute overall, but as relative-absolute. At each passage where Derrida attempts to extract an absolute entity (be it the recourse to Nietzschean infinite affirmation or to Levinas’s Other), he simultaneously reintroduces finite, iterative, and relative logic, whereby the absolute serves solely to sustain deconstruction. For Derrida, the absolute of alterity is equal to the inversion and deconstruction of the real syntactic conditions of an immanent textual production. Thus, the relative of textual inscription is constantly re-established and aimed at the absolute again through the inversion of syntax. But the inversion of syntax remains syntactic. Where Heidegger pushes for the absolute subtraction from philosophical syntax and aims at the finitude of ontically being, Derrida, on the other hand, pushes for a real infinite: the finite syntax is constantly relativized in order to allow for an unlimited, iterative cut. Derrida thus creates a syntactic milieu for all possible regions. (Ibid.)
Derrida treats his kind of difference, différance, as a specific sub-form of difference, as the primary unit including the deconstructive rupture and its permanent reinscription in the text. Thereby, the difference between the textual objectivity and the textual operation remains the primary element of the deconstructive rupture and reinscription. Deconstruction comes about through the permanent destabilization of this difference, which, however, at the same time inheres a fixed structure. Différance is stage 0 of relation, it is relative to relation and relational in itself. And operators such as metaphor and metynomy serve here as markers to constitute infinite chains for which they are the „law.“ This „movement“ is to be understood as an apriori condition for the re-inscription of signs-it indicates itself as an auto-affection that establishes signification as such and represents a moment of apparent penetration of the text, and is ultimately nothing more than différance within a general economy of repetition.
Thus, deconstruction remains motivated precisely by the (paradoxical) destabilization of différance as an ultimately fixed structure to infinity. Laruelle believes, that Derrida’s philosophy of deconstruction restores the identity of difference on a kind of meta-level. An abysmal difference exists between the textual level and the presence (Other), but actually there is only the text as différance, which guarantees a kind of identity as a meta-level of deconstruction. This also means that the Other is ever already inscribed in the text. The différance is latched onto the meta-level as difference, or, in other words, the différance establishes the identity of difference as a meta-level. But if, qua such an identity, there were only the postponement of supplements, then, consequently, there should be no supplements anymore, because each supplement would be its own origin. And if the whole of the text disappears under the domination of the différance, then this would have to be true also for the différance itself. Therefore, the différance has to be stabilized by setting itself as absolute (however unspoken). Deconstruction thus remains an absolute process of the relative and cannot be held absolute without the reserve; it exists in the relation relative-absolute. (Ibid.: 117) Only this allows Derrida to determine that the continuum always involves a relation of connecting and cutting; the continuum is this relation and it sui generis relates to further continua in the same way. In this respect, all negative movements, such as those of displacement and deferral, are to be understood as instruments of a general A-economy, which may even have something in common with the figure of thought of inclusive disjunction as conceived by Deleuze/Guattari in Anti-Oedipus. (Cf. Deleuze/Guattari: 98) This and/or that – that is the mode of inclusive disjunction. Différance would thus possess the same positive identity as Deleuzian difference; it would bring things together in a disjunctive mode at the same time.
Differential syntax allows forms to circulate in order to seemingly destroy them, but Derrida ultimately holds to the absolute character of the circulation of forms, though for Laruelle this fidelity correlates with bad conscience and therefore must always lead to operations of destruction. Deconstruction, in a sense, comes from itself to itself and is for itself, and as an ultimately non-deconstructible. As this non-deconstructible, it is in turn relative to itself, relatively non-deconstructible, because its non-deconstructibility is precisely its deconstructibility. Deconstruction consists in the univocity of the system of the Other; it establishes the Christian-Jewish level of immanence.
Let us return to the problem of temporalization introduced by Derrida. An interval must separate any present element or the present from what it/it is not in order to be itself, whereby the interval that constitutes the present ever already splits the present in itself. (Derrida 1976 : 19) Derrida calls the dividing interval the space-becoming of time or the time-becoming of space. (Ibid.) It is not enough to say that the past was not there and the future is not what will unfold, but one must also say that the present is not simply now-here. Following Derrida, Karen Barad speaks of the nonlinear folding of space-time materializations, whereby not only the essence of time, i.e. the dispersion and incoherence of time, but the incoherence itself must be considered. Barad writes: „…quantum/dis/continuity, which is neither completely discontinuous with continuity, nor continuous in its discontinuity, and in any case not one with itself. There is here no overarching sense of temporality, of continuity.“ Past and future are constantly iteratively overwritten here, as practices in the present lead to foldings, that is, contiguous space-time materializations. And this forms a phenomenon that is itself neither discontinuous nor continuous with itself or others. Each phenomenon interferes with various temporalities that iteratively differentiate it through diverse space-time materializations.
Here, however, it could be interjected that such a (split) self-being of time – including the present – is only possible if a present moment (phenomenon) can be realistically distinguished from another that has not yet or has already passed, and this always requires a standing now-time. If the present is thought purely as the series of decaying now-moments (jumps from one to the other without knowing the moment of connectedness at all yet), then one really has to ask oneself whether, so that everything is not given over to decay, a „now“ must not exist after all, which only makes it possible that something else is not yet or already was. Then there would not only be the splitness of the present, but at the same time the standing now of the present, because otherwise one would really have to deal with the problem of absolute contingency and decay alone. But there is also always the „now“ in the sense of simultaneity, which is read here, however, as the problem of the temporalization of time.
If the order of coexistences cannot be the same as the orders of successions, as Leibniz, incidentally, already noted, at this point, however, it is worth interjecting with Derrida that it is precisely through the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous (every other now with which a now cannot coexist is, in a sense, also the same) that the impossible coexistence of multiple present nows nevertheless appears possible. Time is the name for the possibility of impossibility. At the same time, simultaneity cannot be in itself (space), but only in temporalization, i. e. only temporalization holds two points together; spatial coexistence arises in and with temporalization. But this is still naively thought, insofar as no essence of time and space can be held. Simultaneity is neither spatial nor temporal; it raises instead the problem of temporalization of time: Different nows cannot succeed each other by annihilating (otherwise there would be no time), but neither can they remain the same now (otherwise things thousands of years apart would be simultaneous). Now the problem is the following: The simul, the together, gathers neither points nor phases at this point, but the duplicity present here (simultaneity as the problem of the temporalization of time and temporalization) is as a comparative „expression of the dyad as the minimum“ (ibid.).
For Derrida, the trace of différance involves the most important temporal constitution of the present itself, i. e. no element is presently ever present nor simply absent. Present in any element is always only the other (absent), which, however, must present itself as this other and yet not cross over into its presence. Here, however, there is indeed again the danger to devalue the present completely and to reduce it to an already split moment in the time stream, without recognizing that past and present are always also functions of present memories and expectations.

translated by deepl.

Foto: Sylvia John

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