On my predecessors
From a note to a friend.
You must allow me to digress for a moment and to write about my own philosophical approach, an approach which is, by turns, Derridian and Deleuzian. You see, I hold that Derrida’s deconstruction of transcendental aesthetics dealt with the play of différance kinematically: in other words, Derrida described the play of différance without describing the forces and torques which affect the play of différance. Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, by contrast, dealt with the play of différance kinetically: Deleuze described the forces and torques affecting the play of différance, pushing, pulling, and twisting the play of différance in so many different directions. My own philosophical approach, what the facetious might term a “deconstructive empiricism”, is a mechanics of différance, an attempt to juxtapose Derrida’s more sophisticated kinematics of différance with Deleuze’s more sophisticated kinetics of différance. Let me stress here that to juxtapose is NOT to unify. My “mechanics of différance” maintains (i) that the kinetics of différance and the kinematics of différance differ from one another, (ii) that the kinetics of différance and the kinematics of différance defer to one another only insofar as they differ from one another, and, as a consequence of (i) and (ii), (iii) that the kinetics of différance and the kinematics of différance can only be compared and contrasted with one another and can never combined, neither one into the other, nor all into an encompassing one.
To clarify my philosophical approach, my deconstructive empiricism, a bit further, I need to talk about how I understand the differences between general relativity and quantum field theory. The fundamental force of gravity, described by general relativity, is a spatio-temporal en-action: the force of gravity is attributable to the curvature of spacetime effected by energy, mass, and momentum. The other three fundamental forces, described by quantum field theory, are mediated inter-actions as opposed to spatio-temporal en-actions: the electromagnetic, the strong, and the weak forces are ‘carried’ by mediating particles or mediating excitations, by gauge bosons. In another text, I described the difference between general relativity and quantum field theory as follows:
On the one hand, for the physicist dealing with gravity as spatio-temporal en-action in and through the theory of general relativity, Kinematics can be said to describe phenomena and kinetics said to describe epiphenomena: the useful fiction of the force of gravity being betrayed by the expansion of space-time.
On the other hand, for the physicist dealing with the electromagnetic, strong, and weak forces as mediated inter-actions in and through quantum field theory, kinetics can be said to describe phenomena and kinematics said to describe epiphenomena: the useful fiction of spatiotemporal locality being betrayed by the entanglement of matter.
Returning the kinematics of Derrida and the kinetics of Deleuze, I hold that Deleuze’s more sophisticated kinetics of différance is more fundamental than Derrida’s kinematics of différance only insofar as the forces and torques that affect the play of différance are mediated inter-actions. In turn, I hold that Derrida’s more sophisticated kinematics of différance is more fundamental than Deleuze’s kinetics of différance insofar as the forces and torques that affect the play of différance are spatio-temporal en-actions. Now, I am not saying that Deleuze didn’t recognize and grapple with spatio-temporal en-actions: to the contrary, spatio-temporal en-actions were Deleuze’s primary concern because his kinetic approach found them most elusive. And vice versa, I am not saying that Derrida didn’t recognize and grapple with mediated inter-actions: to the contrary, mediated inter-actions were Derrida’s primary concern because his kinematic approach found them most elusive. Indeed, this explains why Deleuze and Derrida found it different to engage with one another in a substantial matter: that which one found elusive, the other found evident.
Arkady Plotnitsky comes closest to making my point in an essay titled, “Algebras, Geometries, and Topologies of the Fold”, where he points out that Derrida’s rigorous investigations of algebras take the most remarkable and sophisticated geometries and topologies for granted while Deleuze’s rigorous investigations of geometries and topologies take the most remarkable and sophisticated algebras for granted. I think that Plotnitsky doesn’t go far enough, however, and I take the extreme position that the algebra that Deleuze takes for granted is Deleuze’s most original contribution to philosophy and the geometry and topology that Derrida takes for granted is Derrida’s most original contribution to philosophy. Indeed, speaking more generally, I hold that we discover a philosopher’s original contributions when we pay attention that which a philosopher takes for granted and makes cursory mention of as opposed to when we pay attention to that which a philosopher cannot take for granted and ceaselessly mentions.