Notes on Sessions Six Through Nine of Jacques Derrida’s Théorie et pratique.

IMG_56111. Some perplexity regarding the abruptness of session nine, in particular because Derrida says, for the first time in the printed text, that all along the question has been this, what follows: and what follows are considerations on psychoanalysis, analytic theory, analytic practice, and analytic technique.   In the same way that Heidegger could bring the issue of technique to bear on the Marxist (and Althusserian) determination of theory/practice, in order to declare Marxism yet another instance of metaphysics and incapable therefore of accomplishing a true overflowing of philosophy, Derrida brings the issue of analytic technique to bear on psychoanalysis. The question is, is analytic technique a “modern technique” in the Heideggerian sense? That is, does the analytic technique belong to the epoch of modern technology?   Essentially, as determined perhaps, even if rather tenuously, in Session Eight, what is modern about the modern technique is that, in it, “Entbergen [unconceal] does not deploy itself any more as a ‘pro-duction’ (Her-vor-bringen) in the sense of poiesis . . . but rather as ‘Heraus-fordern,’ as a pro-vocation that tears away, requests, extracts violently with accumulation” (170).   Derrida fundamentally finishes his seminar raising the question whether the analytic technique has already taken decisive distance from modern technique, in spite of appearances.   But this question is strangely, uncannily, linked to another question which is not the same question, namely, the question of what we could call the save, or salvation.   Whether psychoanalysis, or even Marxism, or even Heideggerianism, by being re-traced to the ultimate question of the essence of technique, could in fact organize an einkehren, a return home or a homecoming, an orientation towards the homecoming understood relationally, that is, as a simply ever-more original unconcealment. Derrida cites Heidegger in his penultimate page against the menace that “returning to a more originary unconcealment and experiencing the call of a more primal truth be refused” (173).   This question of the save concludes the seminar.   It is, to my mind, the site of the counter-overflowing, but it is far from clear to me that Derrida has done anything but repeat the Heideggerian solution, not in that sense a third way, not a Derridean determination of what he could have found doomed, or metaphysically doomed, in Marxism yes, but also in Heideggerianism.   The issue is, therefore, whether a certain Heideggerianism can be called upon to save Marxism as well as to save psychoanalysis, or to save thought itself, from metaphysics, and to save Dasein from being refused an experience of truth not constrained to being as production.

2. That is, to me, what results from the questions to Heidegger that Derrida will indicate yet again in the seventh session (he had already raised them in session five): “Does Heidegger not reproduce, in the style of the questions he posits from the border of philosophy, philosophy, the relationship of philosophy to itself? . . . wanting to go through thought beyond metaphysics, would Heidegger not reproduce a ‘reactive’ research [understood as] a theoreticism that wants to reappropriate theoria against practicism, by returning to a ‘more originary’ or ‘more initial’ site?” (143).   The answer, to the obscure extent it is given, will have to do with whatever we think the answer to the question of analytic technique may be: is analytic technique also a reflective resetting of the endless search for an always-already where the ec-static temporality of Dasein exercises itself?   Is the endless search for an always-already, understood as the save, whether in terms of Gelassenheit (there is a meditation on Heideggerian Gelassenheit in session six) or in terms of exposure to whatever is more ancient as truth, aletheia as ever more initial unconcealment, not Derrida’s response to the question of theory-practice?

3. Besinnung (meditation) opens itself as a “passive praxis” (125) of transformation no longer productionist. It searches for what is unavoidable or unmissable within every system of production: “Physics cannot accede the unavoidable that is for it physis, since the objectivity of nature to which it relates is only one of the ways in which physis determines itself. In the same way, for psychiatry . . . the Dasein of man remains the unavoidable: ‘the Dasein, for which man as man ex-ists . . ., remains the unavoidable of psychiatry.’ In the same way, ‘history’ (Geschichte) remains the unavoidable for ‘history as theory’ (Historie). And for ‘philology,’ ‘grammar,’ ‘etymologie,’ the ‘comparative history of languages,’ ‘stylistics’ and ‘poetics’ what remains unavoidable is language” (128).   Besinnung opens towards the unavoidable in productive systems through a practice of the “tra-” (“en tra-jet de pensée” [129]) that links it to the exercise I call infrapolitics.

4. Perhaps the more enigmatic of Derrida’s proposals: for him, techné and praxis “are not separable in a modern concept of labor” (161). They were separable for Aristotle and for Heidegger. Heidegger’s entire critique of Marxism can be subsumed into the forced separation of technique and praxis which is the very condition of the subsumption of praxis into technique–Marxist practice is productionist.   This is what is intriguing: “You will say: but if Heidegger had returned labor to Aristotelian practice, the result would have been the same. Yes, but perhaps not if he had broken with the dissociation between techné and praxis operated by Aristotle and he had proposed to himself a new concept, a new organization, etc.” (162).   I find this hard to agree with, but perhaps it is what Derrida had in mind when, in session four, he spoke about the possibility that Marxism could be understood “so as to render account of metaphysics as technological humanism rather than to let itself be understood as such” (92).   The question for Marxism is a modulation of the question for psychoanalysis: are they something other than, and beyond, modern technique?   Could they be?  A positive answer could in fact move further than Heidegger did. Until we have it, we remain within the question. Is that comfortable enough?

 

 

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