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  • Derrida between Freud and HusserlHusserlian Temporality and What Remains of It . . .
  • Élise Lamy-Rested (bio)
    Translated by D. J. S. Cross

If Derrida is no doubt an occidental philosopher, and if deconstruction is heir to a whole tradition that goes back to Plato, it is also the opening and perhaps a response to a call from the Orient, which would come from the other side of the Mediterranean, namely, from Algeria, where Derrida was born and to which he has often and explicitly rendered homage.1 What is occidental philosophy according to Derrida? It would be nothing other than a history of representation of which the phenomenon is a modality. From Plato to Husserl, philosophy would in fact converge with a phenomenology finally thematized by Husserl and rest upon the temporality of presence. From such a perspective, philosophy can be defined as the intellect or consciousness's aim toward or vision of [une visée ou une vision] an Idea or a phenomenon. [End Page 31]

At the time of deconstruction's birth, it had already been acknowledged for many years that consciousness's "omnivoyance" stems from phantasm and that phantasm is a radical, irreducible, and unrepresentable alterity that necessarily escapes it.2 Deconstruction, as Derrida conceived it in the 1960s,3 consists first of all in demonstrating that this alterity is at work in the very heart of philosophical discourses. Deconstruction thus intervenes in texts to bring to light the alterity that checks their ideal of mastery. Deconstruction's movement, finally, weds the movement of this alterity by disquieting the essential distinctions that structure thinking since Plato.

From his first work written as a philosopher, Introduction to the Origin of Geometry, Derrida locates this alterity in the form of the Idea in the Kantian sense identifiable in the expression "und so weiter" (usw), thematized in Ideas I,4 and finds it at work in all Husserlian phenomenology beginning with the Logical Investigations.5 The Idea in the Kantian sense escapes representation and dislocates the temporality of the Living-Present. Ungraspable, it is thought, rather, within the horizon of the Freudian afterclap (Nachträglichkeit, après-coup). Irreducible, it is, in Husserlian phenomenology, the condition of possibility for the infinite perfecting of the noema. Without the Idea in the Kantian sense, the essences petrified as Ideas in the Platonic heavens would remain unsurpassable, and no scientific or philosophical progress would be possible. Now, according to Derrida in "Freud and the Scene of Writing,"6 this unrepresentable alterity, which can never be adequately thematized and opens philosophy to its outside, was best thought by Freud. Whatever the case, through a strange but above all incongruous tour de force, Derrida manages to couple Husserlian temporality with Freudian temporality in an unprecedented site or matrix into the heart of which all of his frequentations, philosophical or otherwise, will be subsequently "introjected" and "incorporated."7 Thus, it is also by following Husserl and Freud's thought, two German-Jewish figures, that Derrida paradoxically manages to escape the Occident, France and Germany, to heed the call of the entirely other.

This exit plays out in a privileged way in Voice and Phenomenon,8 which seeks to show why phenomenology cannot forego expression despite its claims (consciousness can only be lingual) and why it has always favored the voice (phonē) over writing (because only the voice is capable of erasing the [End Page 32] signifier while remaining within the self and reducing to an infinite monologue). More profoundly, however, Voice and Phenomenon shows why phenomenology cannot avoid the alterity, in the Husserlian context, revealed in language and dissimulated, according to Derrida, in the "indicative sign" that Husserl distinguishes from the "expressive sign,"9 that is, the intellectual sign translatable in terms of the "signified" in the Saussurean terminology to which Derrida frequently makes recourse. On the contrary, the "indicative sign" is the "material sign" that can be understood only with reference to other signs, like a red light that becomes "significant" or a "signifier" only within the total network of other road signs. In a spiraling movement, Derrida progressively deconstructs all the essential distinctions that Husserl posits, all of which are grounded in...


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