Language Games, Writing Games - Wittgenstein and Derrida: A Comparative Study

Language Games, Writing Games - Wittgenstein and Derrida: A Comparative Study

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Language Games, Writing Games - Wittgenstein and Derrida: A Comparative Study


ABSTRACT: The concept of deconstruction was first used by Derrida in transforming Heideggerian "destruction." The deconstruction of Derrida is a textintern, intertextual, in-textual activity. He plays a double game inside of philosophy, emphasizing that our thinking is embedded in metaphysics, while at the same moment he questions metaphysics. Wittgenstein's deconstruction, however, involves a new kind of reading, a Zerzettelung of the traditionally argumentative and linear thinking modes. The game plays an important role in both philosophers' texts. I would like to investigate this role and function under the two following viewpoints. First, I think that the game has a strategic role. Second, both philosophers stress that their game is not a founded game but is bounded to knowledge and forms of knowledge.

Wittgenstein and Derrida are two spurs, éperons of philosophical thinking, who changed the milieu of philosophical discourses. They practice new arts of thinking and writing, which lead to a change of paradigm and of style in philosophy. In the case of late Wittgenstein the change manifests in a critical attitude toward modern logical discourses. The annonced silence (Stille) of the Tractatus transfigures itself through textual dispersions into the styles (Stile) of the late Wittgenstein. By Derrida we can discover this paradigm change in his critique of philosophical "logo-phono-ethnocentrism" and even more in his way of writing, wich through its disseminating force overpasses the bar between philosophy and literature.

Alluding to the historical perspectives of these relationships Rorty remarked (Rorty 1984, 5) that as Derrida treats the philosophy of Heidegger, in the similar way treated Heidegger the philosophy of Nietzsche. Derrida is in the same position to Heidegger and Heidegger to Nietzsche as Wittgenstein is to Russell and Russell to Mill. It would be interesting to analyze paralelly the Mill-Russell-Wittgenstein line to the Nietzsche-Heidegger-Derrida line or to investigate the Mill-Nietzsche, Russell-Heidegger and Wittgenstein-Derrida couples. I would like to focus in my paper on three aspects of the Wittgenstein-Derrida relationship: the philosophical attitudes, the writing and reading activity and the language games and writing games.

1. Philosophy as deconstructive activity

The concept of deconstruction would be used the first time by Derrida, transforming Heideggerian "destruction", but we can suppose, that the activity meant by deconstruction would be "practiced" also by others, by earlier philosophers. Derrida himself notes that there are at least three proto-deconstructors - Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger, but the deconstructive activity is as old as the philosophy.

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Henry Staten from his part draws the attention to the fact, that "Wittgenstein is unique among Derrida's predecessors in having achieved, in the period beginning with the Blue Book, a consistently deconstructive standpoint" (Staten 1985, 1).

There is probably no definitive answer to the question, "What is deconstruction?", but there were different attempts of definition, where deconstruction was understood as discipline, metalanguage or method. Derrida does not give a definition of this concept: "What I consider as deconstruction, can produce rules, procedures, techniques, but finally it is no method and no scientific critique, because a method is a technique of questioning or of interpretation, which should be repeatable in other contexts also, without consideration of the idiomatical characters. The deconstruction is not a technique. It deals with texts,with special situations, with signatures and with the whole history of philosophy where the concept of method would be constituted. When deconstruction investigates the history of metaphysics and of the concept of method, it cannot be simply a method." (Derrida 1987, 70). The deconstruction of Derrida is a textinternal, intertextual, in-textual activity. Derrida plays a double game inside of philosophy. He emphasizes that our thinking is embedded in the metaphysics and in the same moment he questions metaphysics: "La déconstruction ne peut se limiter ou passer immédiatement à une neutralisation: elle doit, par une double geste, une double science, une double écriture, pratiquer un renversement de l´opposition classique et un déplacement général du système. C´est à cette seule condition que la déconstruction se donnera les moyens d´intervenir, dans le champ des oppositions qu´elle critique et qui est aussi un champ de forces non-discursives"(Derrida 1972b, 392). This kind of "intervention" is the central point of his attitude toward tradition or even toward his own texts, which leads to self-deconstructing activities.

The thinking activities and the writing modes of Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations shows similarities with the deconstruction of Derrida. Also Wittgenstein describes his investigations not as the method for the philosophy but as: "(...) es wird nun an Beispielen eine Methode gezeigt, und die Reihe dieser Beispiele kann man abbrechen. - Es werden Probleme gelöst (Schwierigkeiten beseitigt), nicht ein Problem.(...) Es gibt nicht eine Methode der Philosophie, wohl aber gibt es Methoden, gleichsam verschiedene Therapien" (PU 133). To say it with an example, the deconstructive activity of Wittgenstein would be formuleted by himself as follows: "Wir führen die Wörter von ihrer metaphysischen, wieder auf ihre alltägliche Verwendung zurück." (PU 116) This way will be showed through the interpretation of the Augustinus phrase in the Philosophical Investigations (PU 89-129).

There are important differences between the deconstructions of Wittgenstein and Derrida. One would be the different relationship to the texts of the history of philosophy. As long as for Derrida the whole history of philosophy functions as the "tradition", where individual texts will be to the finest details deconstructed, Wittgenstein does not analyzes historical texts. He remarks in the preface of Tractatus, that he is not interested in philosophy-historical citations or in the question, wheter his thoughts are in relationship with earlier philosophers or not.

2. Philosophy as writing and reading activity

It is impossible to find a unique principle for the interpretation of the texts of Wittgenstein. This impossibility belongs not only to the general meta level of the interpretability but to the textuality of these texts. They support a new kind of reading, as the later philosophy of Wittgenstein realizes a new kind of speach and writing - a "Zerzettelung" of the traditionally argumentative and linear thinking modes. These old modes bear the idea of the book. Wittgenstein questions with his textual activity the idea of the book and says, his thinking opposes to the effort to be summarized in a book which is built up in a linear way: "Nach manchen mißglückten Versuchen, meine Ergebnisse zu einem solchen Ganzen zusammenzuschweißen, sah ich ein, daß mir dies nie gelingen würde. Daß das beste, was ich schreiben konnte, immer nur philosophische Bemerkungen bleiben würden; daß meine Gedanken bald erlahmten, wenn ich versuchte, sie, gegen ihre natürliche Neigung, in einer Richtung weiterzuzwingen." (Wittgenstein 1984, 231).

Derrida annonces without referring to Wittgenstein the end of the book. The thougts which are summarized in a book mediate a unity, a totality, which cannot be integrated in the alinearity of deconstructive thinking. This totality is far away from the sens of the writing which destructs the idea of books, since the writing has a destabilizing effect and an aphoristic energy: "La fin de l'écriture linéaire est bien la fin du livre, même si aujourd'hui encore, c'est dans la forme du livre que se laissent tant bien que mal engainer de nouvelles écritures, qu'elles soient littéraires ou théoriques. Il s'agit d'ailleurs moins de confier à l'enveloppe du livre des écritures inédites que de lire enfin ce qui, dans les volumes, s'écrivait déjà entre les lignes. C'est pourquoi en commençant à écrire sans ligne, on relit aussi l'écriture passée selon une autre organisation de l'espace. Si le problème de la lecture occupe aujourd'hui le devant de la science, c'est en raison de ce suspens entre deux époques de l'écriture. Parce que nous commençons a écrire, a écrire autrement, nous devons relire autrement." (Derrida 1967b, 129-130) The so called "other kind of writing" is the non-linear, double writing of deconstruction: "écriture qui épelle ses symbol dans la pluri-dimensionalité: le sens n'y est pas assujetti à la successivité, à l'ordre du temps logique ou à la temporalité irréversible du son. Cette pluri-dimensionatité ne paralyse pas l'histoire dans la simultaneité, elle correspond à une autre couché de l'expérience historique et l'on peut aussi bien considérer, à l'invers, la pensée lineaire comme une réduction de l'hisoire." (Derrida, 1967b, 127)

We can ask, wheter the remarks of Wittgenstein, the notices should be read as written scriptures or as written language. Wittgenstein questions the language and he speaks always about forms of expressions and forms of languages and he investigates seldom the letters and the forms of writing. But his whole thinking activity and form of expression sembles to be an activity of writing although he dictated many of his texts. In his remark about culture and values he says, that his thoughts would be led by pen: "I really do think with my pen, because my head often knows nothing about what my hand is writing" (Wittgenstein 1980, 106). Staten remarques about Wittgenstein (PU 16.), that the kind of citation and of evolution of his language transforms his language into a form of writing. I think, that the kind of treating his own texts could be named "Zerzettelung" and we could show this kind of activity on the surface of his texts. The "Zerzettelung" is the phenomenal side of his deconstruction and the manifestation of a double writing, since he analyses his own earlier writings and propositions and at the same time he questions and negates them. It seems that in Tractatus the aphoristic energy of writing goes through the security of sentenciosity. In the Philosophical Investigations seems this energy to be paralized and the form of "is" of the Tractatus receives here a conjunctive form.

In the Philosophical Investigations (156-178) and in the Brown Book (78-87) Wittgenstein gives a "deconstruction" of the "reading". He differentiates between three art of reading: the reading-machine, the "beginner" and the reading as "mental activity". Through this differentiation he focuses the attention on the How of reading. Wittgenstein says, that there are two different mechanisms: "Und was in ihnen vorgeht, muß Lesen von Nichtlesen unterscheiden. - Aber diese Mechanismen sind doch nur Hypothesen; Modelle zur Erklärung, zur Zusammenfassung dessen, was du wahrnimmst." (PU 156) These two models could be interpreted as two models of reading. The one would be a reading which will be controlled by the letters and by a line. The other possibility would be a kind of parallel reading: "Denn es ist freilich richtig, zu sagen, ich habe diese Linie unter dem Einfluß der Vorlage gezogen: dies liegt aber nicht einfach in dem, was ich beim Ziehen der Linie empfinde - sondern, unter Umständen, z.B. darin, daß ich sie zu der andern parallel ziehe; obwohl auch das wieder für das Geführtwerden nicht allgemein wesentlich ist" (PU 177). We should not forget, that for Wittgenstein reading is not an activity of the interpretation of text and of the understanding of sense: "Zuerst muß ich bemerken, daß ich zum 'Lesen' in dieser Betrachtung, nicht das Verstehen des Sinns des Gelesenen rechne; sondern Lesen ist hier die Tätigkeit, Geschriebenes oder Gedrucktes in Laute umzusetzen; auch aber, nach Diktat zu schreiben, Gedrucktes abzuschreiben, nach Noten zu spielen und dergleichen" (PU 156).

Also for Derrida the reading is not the search for meaning but it is a special kind of textinterpretation and textwriting. The deconstructive reading of Derrida contary to the "metaphysical model of reading"; it is a "prudent, differentiated, slow, stratified" reading (Derrida 1972a, 40). The texts of Wittgenstein request also a slow reading: "Meine Sätze sind alle langsam zu lesen."(Wittgenstein 1984/8, 531) This kind of reading involves a new attitude toward reading, which does not mislead us with the illusion of a final solution and interpretation, but it makes possible an approach to the textual dimensions. The text will be free from the trap of interpretative harrasment. The text will be given back to itself.

3. Philosophy as language game and writing game

The game plays an important role in both philosopher's texts. I would like to investigate this role and function under the two following viewpoints. First, I think that the game has by both a strategic role in the sense as Derrida understands "strategy": "Stratégie finalement sans finalité, on pourrait appeller cela tactique aveugle, errance empirique, si la valeur d'empirisme ne prenait elle-même tout son sens de son opposition à la responsabilité philosophique. S'il y a une certaine errance dans le tracement de la différance, elle ne suit pas plus la ligne du discours philosophico-logique que celle de son envers symétrique et solidaire, le discours empirico-logique. Le concept de jeu se tient au-delà de cette opposition, il annonce, à la veille et au-delà de la philosophie, l'unité du hasard et de la nécessité dans un calcul sans fin"(Derrida 1972b, 7). Second, both philosophers underlines that their game is not a founded game and it is bounded to knowledge and forms of knowledge.

The language game is a central moment in the thinking of the late Wittgenstein. That philosophy should be understood as an activity and not as a theory, is a "learning" which hold Wittgenstein throughout his carreer: "Das Wort 'Sprachspiel' soll hier hervorheben, daß das Sprechen der Sprache ein Teil ist einer Tätigkeit, oder einer Lebensform" (PU 23) Similarly as for the language game, we cannot give a definition for the "form of life". It cannot be said, that to every language game we can found a form of life. He says that "Befehlen, fragen, erzählen, plauschen gehören zu unserer Naturgeschichte, so wie gehen, essen, trinken, spielen." (PU 25). The language does not dissolves into different language games, but the actual use of a language is the effective language game. The interpretation of the relationship between language game and form of life will be more difficult through the fact, that Wittgenstein thinks, it is not possible to give a foundation for the language game: "Du musst bedenken, dass das Sprachspiel sozusagen etwas Unvorhersehbares ist. Ich meine: Es ist nicht begründet. Nicht vernünftig (oder unvernünftig). Es steht da - wie unser Leben." (Über Gewissheit, 559).(...) "Und der Begriff des Wissens ist mit dem des Sprachspiels verkuppelt."(Über Gewissheit, 560) Language games can be interpreted on the basis of the Philosophical Investigations as ex-amples (Bei-spiele) of the functioning of ordinary language. We can give so to the language games no over-role (Über-Rolle) and we cannot use them as over-concept (Über-Begriff) in the interpretation of Wittgenstein. The examples which are described by Wittgenstein as language games give a sense that it is not possible to give a final answer to the question, what a language game is (PU 23).

In the texts of Derrida the game has also a specific role. With such concepts as différence/différance, reserve and réstance, dissemination, etc. the game is a part of the deconstructive activity and it is not less a puzzle as the others. We can suppose the outlines of a game theory by Derrida, but it is impossible to give a definition of that, what is for him a game. In his essay La structure, le signe et le jeu dans le discours des sciences humaines (Derrida 1967) analyses Derrida with the help of the concept of game the concepts of structure and sign, which are for him principal elements of traditional metaphysics. The metaphysical tradition is for Derrida a continous mutation of a centralized structure. It supposed always a notion of the structure, which was always reduced on a neutralizinhg gestus. The centralized structure would be controlled from a center. This center opens but in the same time delimits a space of game. For Derrida, this is a "founded game": "The concept of centered structure is in fact the concept of a freeplay based on a fundamental ground, a freeplay which is constituted upon a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude, which is itself beyond the reach of the freeplay. With this certitude anxiety can be mastered, for anxiety is invariably the result of a certain mode of being implicated in the game, of being caught by the game of being as it were from the very beginning at stake in the game." (Derrida, 1989, 231) Derrida questions the centered structure and the certitude, which controlled the concept of metaphysics. He decenters the centered concept of structure and says, this center is only "a function, a sort of nonlocus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play. This moment was that in which language invaded the universal problematic; that in which, in the absence of a center or origin, everything became discourse ... that is to say, when everything became a system where the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences. The absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the interplay of signification ad infinitum." (Derrida, 1989, 232) This game differs from the founded game, which is a sure game for Derrida. This game "determines the non-center otherwise than as loss of the center. And it plays the game without security. For therer is a sure free-play: that which is limited to the substitution of given and existing, present, pieces." (Derrida, 1989, 242) Derrida investigates the tensed relationship of the game to History and Dasein. In the game-concept of Wittgenstein there are no space for thes two dimensions. Derrida thinks that the game is the rupture of Dasein. The metaphysic wanted to approach Dasein and it wanted to work out the rules of the founded game. But Derrida shows, that this kind of philosophy and theory of game is impossible. The thinking of Derrida is a decentered activity, which articulates in unique writing games. The space which would be opened by this game is for Derrida the "scene of writing" and so we can give to the writing and to its "writingness" the name of writing game. There is a possibility here to bring together the language games of Wittgenstein and the writing games of Derrida. The difference is that Wittgenstein thinks from the language and from the scene of language, whereas Derrida writes from the writing and from the scene of writing. Lyotard thinks that the language games of Wittgenstein saved philosophy from the pessimism of the turn of centery intellektual life originated in the deligitimation and in the positivistic tendenties of the Vienna Circle. (Lyotard 1979, 69) I think, with his "writing games" Derrida gave back to the philosophy the pleasure of textwriting and textreading also.

References

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Derrida, J. (1972b), "Signature événement contexte", Marges de la philosophie, Paris: Minuit, 1972, 365-393.

Derrida, J. (1967a) L'écriture et la différance. Paris: Seuil, 409-428.

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Derrida, J. (1989) "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences - Discussion", in. R.Con Davies and R.Schleifer (eds.), Contemporary Literary Criticism. New York: Longman.

Lyotard, F. (1979), La condition postmodern. Paris: Minuit.

Rorty, R. (1984), "Signposts along the way that Reason went", London Review of Books, 16-29 Februar.

Staten, H. (1985), Wittgenstein and Derrida. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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Wittgenstein, L. (1984/8), Über Gewißheit. Frankfurt: Suhrkam
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