Cartesian deconstruction : self-reflexivity in Descartes and Derrida
In this study, I propose a reading of Derrida as a Cartesian thinker. The mode of reading is closely textual and not historical; and the analysis focuses on the methodological or dispositional affinities between a sceptical Descartes in cogitation and a deconstructive Derrida, to the exclusion of the onto-theological aspects of their arguments. I locate the source of such epistemological affinities between them in the self-reflexivity of philosophical self-doubt or self-criticism, and highlight, in the course of analysis, the formatively self-referential aspects of both Cartesian scepticism and Derridian deconstruction; The point of contention is that, in both cases, the starting point of thinking is the self that self-reflects. Standard interpretations tend to view Derrida as an anti-Cartesian thinker; Against this reading, I advance the following two points of contention. Firstly, I argue that Derrida can be read as a Cartesian thinker in that his reflexive tendency is indicative of his implicit commitment to the methodological or epistemological Cartesianism, i. e. the reflexive mode of cogitation. The claim here, limited to such an extent, is that there is a structural resemblance between the reflexive form of Descartes's cogilo and that of Derrida's deconstructive move in that both thinkers follow performatively reflexive, and reflexively repeated moves; The Derridian move is only one "step" beyond, and in this sense derivative from, the Cartesian. Secondly, I argue further that Derrida can be read as a radical Cartesian. For this, I present a reading of Derrida's reflexive hauntology as a sceptical radicalisation of Descartes's reflective ontology. By bringing to the fore a structurally Cartesian dimension which underlies the Derridian economy of writing and thinking, I argue, against Derrida's self-understanding of his (non-)project, that deconstruction is to be read as a conservative intra-metaphysical trajectory rather than as a transgressive endeavour to go beyond metaphysics. In highlighting the traditional aspects of deconstruction as opposed to the revolutionary sides of it, my aim is both to explicate the significance of Derrida's deconstructive project and, at the same time, to expose its constitutive limits, deconstruction taken as a meta-critical, reflexive endeavour to transcend the limits of philosophy by philosophy. The critical point I raise against Derrida is the following: Insofar as the logic or strategy of his deconstruction remains structurally locked in, and at the same time exploitative of, the implicit binarism of Cartesian scepticism, i. e. the logic of either-or, the deconstructive gesture that attempts to think "the Other" by reflecting critically upon its own condition of thinking, is bound to be self-reflexive or self-referential, therefore, self-corrosively ineffectual. Part I sets out to articulate the aforementioned two contentions of thesis. It aims to discover the recursively self-reflexive movements in the writings of Derrida. For this, chapter 2 offers an analysis of some of Derrida's central terms of hauntology that are descriptive of the movements and moments of meta-reflection, viz. double, mark, fold, interest, and law. Although Part I deals mainly with Derrida, the reflexive dimension of Descartes's cogito argument is also analysed in an early stage [1.31] to the extent that it can set the terms for the subsequent reading of Derrida as a Cartesian [1.32 -2.3]. Part II elaborates the key points made in Part I, first by providing a detailed account of the Cartesian economy of self-reflexivity [Chapter 4], and second, by closely reading selected passages from Den ida's essay on Descartes, 'Cogito et histoire de lafolie' [Chapter 5]. Derrida's defensive and sympathetic reading of Descartes's madmen against Foucault's, the last chapter argues, exemplifies a case of Derrida as a committed Cartesian with a mind bent on methodic meta-reflection.