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John R. Boly NIHILISM ASIDE: DERRIDA'S DEBATE OVER INTENTIONAL MODELS DERRIDA'S PHILOSOPHY, or perhaps antiphilosophy, emerges from phenomenological thought. But to a great extent, he has been permitted to define that emergence on his own terms, particularly in his writings on Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger. This is, of course, highly questionable. It in effect licenses Derrida to become a revisionist historian of his own origins. So I propose a variation. Instead of placing phenomenology against Derrida's backdrop, I want to question his deconstructive project in its relation to the phenomenological venture. The difficulty with this is apparent. What would such a venture be? Even posing the question raises problems in that it presupposes an impossible vantage, an uninvolved point from which to look down in serene mastery at a game rigged in advance. Yet perhaps a synoptic point ofview may be indulged in for a while, provided no one forgets its provisional nature. In that case, the phenomenological venture includes four moments. 1. Suspension (or epoche). Human beings cannot perceive reality in itself. They can only experience meaning through the operations of intentionality , which may be thought of as the exclusions, selections, and combinations of a mediating system. This truism is no less terrifying for being so true, and every mediating system bears within itselfan impulse towards protective closure, an impulse to veil its own forming activity. Such closure eventually encrusts a mediating system and hardens into what Marxists call ideology, the early Barthes called myth, or contemporary response theorists call repertoire. Suspension involves a questioning attentiveness that remains within the closure it questions. Every fact is reconsidered , as factum, a deed brought forth through a process ofmaking. The consequently bracketed "fact" is both sacred object, granting reflexive ac152 John R. Boly153 cess to its formative process, and utter pretension, trying to conceal that process and thereby promote itself as fact rather than facture, origin rather than product. Phenomenology begins with a questioning of that pretension . Like a difficult child, it is perplexed at the self-evident and wonders at the obvious. 2.Reduction. Yet this questioning attentiveness takes only a first step. Suspension disenchants or disillusions, but it does not advance toward an understanding of the intricate patterns through which meaning emerges from the infinite possibilities of perception. That is the task of reduction, to which Husserl assigned two phases, the eidetic and the transcendental.1 In the eidetic phase, phenomena are released, so far as this is possible, into a preflective and preconceptual mode, as pure perceptions still awaiting the activity of mediation. Here, phenomena are boundless as well as exhilarating in their semantic potential. This return to primary perception, however, generates an opposing phase, the transcendental reduction, which traces the way in which mediating systems or what John Wild called versions of the life-world, select and arrange a potentially infinite semantic potential into actual meanings.2 Eidetic and transcendental phases work together, as inseparable antagonists within a continuous dialectic of disclosure. Because these two phases oppose one another, reduction involves a continuous interplay between energy and order, dynamism and system, with the result that it tirelessly traces patterns in the life-world, yet does so only to modify and transform those patterns through the very act of its tracing. Efforts to set the patterns of a life-world into a stable structure at the same time set free their infinite possibilities.3 The eidetic phase of the reduction thus provides a relentless semantic pressure that qualifies, elaborates, and eventually disperses every order of the transcendental phase. Yet without the revealing provocation of such inadequate orders, the eidetic phase would become incoherent and lapse into a speechless nihilism. Though it enacts a comic drama, reduction is the central task of the phenomenological venture, which halts the instant it is denied access to the intentional realm of the life-world. 3.Opening. So important is this access that it generates a separate moment , which pauses to meditate on the conditions of such access. The issues that arise here dominated Heidegger's thought after Being and Time, and they are among the most abstruse yet important concerns of phenomenology . How can models of intentional patterning be...


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pp. 152-165
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