JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Part of our History of Boredom series)
(An episode in comic history in which is found a common thread in Dr. Seuss, SpongeBob SquarePants and Jacques Derrida.)
It may have been Bertrand Russell, or William James, or Arthur Eddington that this story begins with, but since the ending is the same, it really doesn't matter where it begins. The story goes like this: one of them was giving a lecture on cosmology and the idea of infinite regression, when he was suddenly interrupted by an old lady (or young man) who asserted that what they just heard was rubbish, and that the universe was supported in an ark that was traveling on the back of a turtle.
"And what is the turtle standing on, I wonder" asked Russell/James/Eddington.
"Why, its turtles all the way down" came the reply from the old lady/young man.
And that is indeed what we have here with the vocabulary of the post-moderns and deconstructionists--vocabulary built upon nothing and wrapped around itself, all the way down.
This business suffers far too much from living within its own self-defined and unaccountable vocabulary, in spite of it being a happy place where things can't go wrong because it is both simultaneously supported and crippled by "its own criterion of validity" (thanks to Walter Johnson for an utterly accurate book-tearing lesson on that hideous phrase from long ago). So just like any other belief system when something doesn't quite agree with something else, a new word/meaning is added into the stew to make everything add up to gumbo.
And so what I came to was a way of greasing the turtle stack, creating a phrase constructor for post-structural/deconstruction conversation. Even though it is entirely farcical it seems to me to make as much sense as the original. Try it and see. This would work much better with drop-down boxes and such, but I didn't want to spend very much time on this, at all. And much like Dr. Seuss' Yertle, the view seems very much clearer back down in the mud.
If I was to try to market this "program" on a plastic circular disk for $4.95 in college bookstores, the ad copy might read something like this:
Jacques Derrida’s Own, un-Patented 10-Second Homespun Intellectual Travel Kit of Words, Wordified
"Monsters cannot be announced.
One cannot say: 'here are our monsters',
without immediately turning the monsters into pets”—JD, 1979
“Words are nothing
and nothing is nothing,
then double nothing is words—JD, 1982
Caveat: the following may, or may not, be true.
Background: Jacques Derrida, Algerian-born philosopher and non-historian, came into prominence in America with his critical approach or methodology or philosophy of deconstruction. In the areas of philosophy and literary criticism alone, Derrida has been cited more than 14,000 times in journal articles over the past 17 years; more than 500 US, British and Canadian dissertations treat him and his writings as primary subjects.
History and source of the sentence-generating template: Owing to a monstrous schedule of speaking and writing it leaves little to wonder how M. Derrida infused his confusing private vocabulary. The mystery was partially solved in 1996 when an attaché case was discovered in M. Derrida’s vacated Muncie (Indiana) hotel room. Mysteriously the name tag on the old valise was that of Justice Louis M. Brandeis, but inspection of its contents revealed additional documents naming the owner as “:Mine” and “Jacques Derrida”. The valise, originally tied together with 150-year old paper, was filled with inscrutably marked papers-in-progress as well as notebooks written in non-discernable French and heavily ill-written English. Of the highest interest though was the “Word Machine” taped to the lid of the attaché, the contents of which we outline below.
Taped to the machine was the following note in which Derrida writes of himself in the third-person:
"The Hydra has many heads. You will not be able to choose between this one on the one hand, on the other that. And the play of differences between the right and the left hand that Jacques Derrida insists on in writing about Heidegger's hand disrupts the demonstrability of the properly human as the being of pointing or monstration: Hands, that is already or still the organic or technical dissipation. Nonetheless, what is pointed out or towards, what may even be handed to you (t)here is an alpha-bête, an ABC of deconstruction and Derrida, a monstrous beginning, written without hands, and with the help of many hands."
Below we offer the "monster’s" tool of arranging and affecting words into being.
“Meanings have some when their infused with the infusion of applicable privilege falsehoods which heterogenate the stratagem dilemmas of truth strangleholds. Incipient speech sensates the implied messaging of meaning of words; we and I mean to retrend those meanings discursive into their logocentric signs or irrelevant relationships. That is my journey, and by journey I don’t mean journey.” --JD, 1972
The Three Column Meaning Machine for Constructing Deconstructionist/Post-Structuralist Phrases
Simply take one word from each column, string them together, and place them in the middle of any sentence. You will instantly achieve a confused status with any listener, and create a "sentence enhancer" without needing to know the meaning of the words, just like everyone else.
(Assume that others will be confused by incorporating any combination of three-word phrases from the following constructions—just choose any one word from each of the three columns, put them together, and—voila—you’ve got the vocabulary that will confuse and delight your associates in the occasional way that Derrida did.)
This effort was first published on utility poles in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. None of the 15 postings survived more than a day.