Thursday, September 12, 2019

Derrida Economimesis: An outline and comments [not completed]

On one level Derrida's "Economimesis" is just a close reading of Kant's Analytic of the Beautiful in the Critique of Judgment (with some side moves to the Introduction).  It is sometimes difficult when reading this text to determine when Kant leaves off and Derrida begins.  There are many lengthy quotes by Kant and some of the explications of Kant are fairly straightforward.  Sometimes one gets the feeling that Derrida approves of what Kant is saying, but he may not outright say this.  Economimesis is a deconstructive critique of Kant's great work.  The strategy Derrida uses is to note various oppositions in Kant's thought and then show how those oppositions are questioned, sometimes dissolved, and so forth.  The reading is extremely difficult, but not without value. It appears in the textbook I am using this semester Continental Aesthetics:  Romanticism to Postmodernism, and I will cite from that.  I cannot pretend to be a Derrida specialist:  this is just my best effort to understand what is going on here.  I will number the paragraphs.

  1. It is usually helpful in reading Derrida to focus on the key Derridean (i.e. in this case non-Kantian) terms being used.  For example in the first paragraph Derrida mentions politics and political economy, and of course this relates to the made-up term used as title to the essay.  Derrida observes that politics acts upon this discourse, although it does not play a prominent role in Kant's actual discussion.  A typical move for the deconstructionist is to show the underlying political context.  This is something that deconstructionism shares with Marxism.  Derrida suggests that the motifs here go back to Plato and Aristotle in one chain of discourse, and to other philosophical chains as well (for example, Marxism), although, now talking in a metaphilosophical may, the same concept will have a different meaning in different sequences, its identity based on the way it functions in the particular discourse.  He talks in the end of "elaboration, that is dislocation, by the structure of the parergon" which means simply that it is subject to deconstruction.
  2. Production as Mimesis.  We pretend to find a point of departure in examples or locations which are neither empirical nor metaempirical.
  3. These locations are motivated by the concept of economimesis, a term created to combine mimesis and economics, and although they seem unrelated to each other, there is a systematic link.  (The opposition between these two is deconstructed.  This may be the primary deconstruction of the essay.)  Further, with respect to economy, there is no opposition between economy of circulation (regular economy) and general economy (the use of the term "economy" that is much broader and metaphorical...relations of exchange on a broad cultural level.)  
  4. The locations in the text are two statements about economics in the first restrictive sense, i.e. about salary.  Although such statements are rare in the text they are not insignificant.  The theory of mimesis is bracketed by these statements.
  5. One is in section 43 of the Critique of Judgment where free art is defined in opposition to mercenary art.  The other is in 51 where the free arts are independent of salary.  
  6. The first statement is related to the definition of art, which comes late in the book.  Kant had just said that natural beauty is superior to art from a moral point of view since nature speaks to us symbolically through its beautiful forms.  But this also leads us to think of nature as though it were art production.  
  7. Kant seems to define art as not nature "thus subscribing to the inherited, ossified, simplified, opposition between techne and physis" and the related one between the play of freedom and mechanical necessity.  Derrida will work on deconstructing these distinctions as well.  His negativity about the opposition can be seen in the quoted adjectives.   He first observes that "analogy annuls this opposition" since, for Kant. Nature dictates what is free in production of art through Genius.  Genius receives its rules from nature.  Previous philosophers, especially Plato, have attacked imitation in art, but this is undermined, as it turns out that nature, in giving rules to the genius, "folds itself, returns to itself, reflects itself through art."  So, although direct imitation of nature is perhaps still condemned, there is this indirect imitation through nature's power over genius.  [I am not sure I agree with Derrida's analysis here since Kant seems to be saying rather that it is the nature of the genius that gives the rule to art, not some external nature, not nature in the wild, for example.]  So both the oppositions of physis (nature) and mimesis (imitative art) and physis and tecne (craft) are overcome.  Note that Derrida is saying that Kant is doing this deconstruction.  As in other writings there is a sense that everything Derrida is bringing out is already, strangely, there in Kant.
  8.  Derrida speaks of "apparently irreducible oppositions" which are finally dissolved.  He also asks what political economy is advantaged by this dissolution.  I am not sure what this means:  perhaps a better political system, a freer less capitalist one would be advantaged
  9. To dissolve them these oppositions must be produced and multiplied.  This is Derrida's methodology:  he shows more and more oppositions and then dissolves them.
  10. An example of this multiplication is within art in general where the opposition forms a hierarchy in which one side is always classified as more valuable, for example one art as more properly art than another. (Collingwood could be said to make such a distinction, i.e. between amusement art and art properly speaking.)  Derrida will seek to dissolve this too.
  11. Kant says that we should only call "art" the production of freedom by means of freedom, using free will and reason.  Thus the product of bees is not art.  This humanist theme treats animality in general under certain examples, in this case the bee, which is opposed to the human.  The human is always seen as associated with reason, freedom, etc.  The other is not.  The concept of art is constructed to raise man from "below."  So Aristotle argues that only man is capable of mimesis.   What this is leading to is a deconstruction (which is usually just a questioning) of the standard duality between man and animal.  Derrida also finds a "ruse" in this:  that what is unique to man is said to be grounded in absolute naturalism and "indifferentialism" which is to say that differentiation is effaced by opposition. The ruse is the effacement. Derrida wants to go the other way, replacing opposition with difference.
  12. So bees have no art, or have it only by analogy.
  13. Art is also distinguished from science.  This is another of the multiplying oppositions which needs deconstruction.  In art it is not enough to have knowledge to do it.  For science, to know is to know how.  But high-wire dancing is different:  it is not enough to know about it.  Art is like that, on this view.
  14. For Kant, art cannot then be reduced to craft.  The craftsman exchanges the value of his work for a salary.  But art is liberal, free:  it is not part of economics, not exchangeable.  Derrida somewhat confusingly says that liberal art and mercenary art are not then opposite terms.  I think he means they are not exactly opposite since liberal art is considered to be more art, to have more value, and precisely because it does not have economic value.  Derrida will deconstruct this too.  Mercenary art is, for Kant, only art analogically.  And it is like the productivity of bees, lacking such things as freedom and play of imagination.  So the opposition here is play and work -- also to be deconstructed.
  15. So, for Kant, free art is more human than salaried work as with the work of bees.  The free man is not homo oeconomicus.
  16. 2. The free man may use the work of man insofar as he is not free.  This is, of course, the basis for capitalist exploitation.
  17. 3.  But Kant also must distinguish reproductive and productive imagination, the later being free and playful.  
  18. Poetry is the summit of fine art, taking productive imagination to its extreme.  But mimesis comes in here too since it "deploys the brute power of its invention only by listening to nature."  So nature replaces God in the enlightenment ideology:  we have now "onto-theological humanism."  Genius takes this productivity to its highest point:  it both gives rules and also (in a seemingly contradictory fashion) has rules dictated to it by nature.  Thus the distinction between liberal and mercenary art breaks with mimesis as imitation only to identify itself with nature itself freely unfolding.  The idea of genius as creating its own rules through nature is the key to Derrida's deconstruction.
  19. The free play also offers enjoyment which should be distinguished from pleasure.  The definition that Kant uses to distinguish Fine Arts "does not proceed by symmetrical opposition" since Fine Arts do not all belong to the liberal arts some of which are Sciences.
  20. What then characterizes the Fine Arts?
  21. An art that produces the beautiful need not be beautiful itself.  But it is connected since "the relation to the product cannot, structurally, be cut off from the relation to a productive subjectivity..."  This is implied by the signature of the artist on his or her work.  So the beautiful is not only the object but also the work that goes into making it.  The signature is in the "parergonal thickness of the frame":  neither wholly out or in the work.  The beautiful is also in the passage between the process and the product: it "depends on some paregonal effect."  Thus Fine-Arts are "always of the frame and the signature."  Derrida thinks Kant would not endorse this but it is consistent with his system.
  22.   To say an art is fine one implies "a repetition, a possibility of beginning again."
  23. The repetition is of a pleasure.  Science cannot be beautiful just as art cannot have scientific value, and, for Kant, the beauty of a scientific statement would just be a witticism.
  24.   Science must do without wit, art, beauty and pleasure.  But Derrida will seek to deconstruct this set of distinctions too.
  25. He does this (i.e. shows how Kant himself deconstructs it) by turning to the Introduction where pleasure is in the distant origin of knowledge.  
  26. This"immemorial time" is not a time of consciousness.  Here pleasure was not separated from knowledge.  We are led back to "the buried or repressed origin of science, that is to the science of science, to the point where all the distinctions, oppositions, limits remarked by the Kantian critique lose their pertinence."  Deconstruction is a matter of going back to this time.  Derrida notes sweeping consequences here.  [Is Derrida advocating something like Rousseau's return to the state of nature?]
  27. So, for Kant, the Fine Arts give pleasure and not enjoyment, science gives neither, and the fine arts (small letters) give pleasure without enjoyment.  [This distinction between Fine Arts and fine arts is not familiar to me in reading Kant.]
  28. Mechanical art neither seeks nor gives pleasure:  it is opposed to aesthetic art which ends in pleasure.
  29. Aesthetic art, too, splits into hierarchic species:  there is aesthetic art that has no relation to the beautiful, e.g. the agreeable arts, which have enjoyment as their aim, whereas the Fine Arts seek pleasure without enjoyment.  The arts of enjoyment include conversation, party games, etc.
  30. Pure pleasure without empirical enjoyment belongs to judgment and reflection.  Derrida seeks to deconstruct this distinction too [as I have in my work in everyday aesthetics].
  31.  This pleasure is according to the order of a society, a reflective intersubjectivity.
  32. So what is the relation with economimesis?  This taking pleasure belongs to the essence of man capable of pure non-exchangeable productivity...not in terms of use value or exchange values (to use the terms of Marx.)
  33. "nevertheless this pure productivity of the inexchangeable liberates a sort of immaculate commerce"  i.e. universal communicability between free subjects.  This is the pure economy of the free man.
  34. Mimesis comes in since a certain "as if" re-establishes it at the point where it appears detached.  Fine Arts must have the appearance of nature, must resemble effects of natural action:  the purposiveness of its form must seem to be as free as if it were the product of pure nature.
  35. What is the scope of the "as if"? (436)
  36.   The less pure productivity depends on nature the more it resembles nature: mimesis here is not the representation of one thing by another:  not the relation of two products but of two productions, two freedoms.  The artist then imitates acts of nature.  So the mimesis displays the identification of the human with the divine, a commerce between divine and human artist.  The commerce is mimesis "in the strict sense, a play, a mask, an identification with the other on stage" not a copy.  So true mimesis is between two producers.  Imitation, by contrast, is servile.
  37. This secures the hierarchical opposition between free and mercenary art  "Economimesis puts everything in its place, starting with the instinctual work of animals without language and ending with God, passing by way of the mechanical arts, mercenary art, liberal arts, aesthetic arts, and the Fine-Arts."  That is, it establishes the hierarchy.
  38.  So the structure of mimesis effaces the opposition between nature and art.  [I find this confusing since in the preceding paragraph it established a hierarchy.  Is hierarchy different from opposition?]  We rediscover the root of pleasure in knowledge.  Derrida then diverges to a discussion of Aristotle on mimesis.  For Aristotle mimesis is essential to man.  But Kant thinks imitation is aping:  the ape cannot mime.  So Aristotle is back at the joining of knowledge and pleasure.  He sees man as different from other animals in being good at imitation, and taking pleasure in it.
  39. Why are Aristotle and Kant different here? They are not so different.  Kant does not exclude the unity of pleasure and knowledge:  he merely re-assigns it to the unconscious at some immemorial time.  Also, here, nature is an art and natural beauty a product of that.  Kant says nature was beautiful when it was seen as art and that art cannot be beautiful unless we are conscious of it as art but see it as nature.  
  40.   Art is beautiful to the degree it is like productive nature.  Kant again has led us back to a time before his critique and before all of the disassociations and oppositions. 
  41.    "The beautiful brings productive nature back to itself, it qualifies a spectacle that artist-nature has given itself.  God has given himself to be seen in a spectacle,  just as if he had masked - had shown - himself."   This paragraph is difficult.  It may be indicating a theology.  Derrida speaks of "an immense liberality which however can only give itself in itself to be consumed."  I wonder whether this is something he favors, i.e. as a virtue.
  42.   But how can man's freedom be said to resemble that of God? It resembles by not imitating.
  43.  The mimesis can only proceed by exemplars.
  44. Thy genius naturalizes economimesis.  It is produced and given by nature. It is a gift of nature.  "Nature produces freedom for itself and gives it to itself" and in giving non-conceptual rules of art, i.e. exemplars, the genius reflects nature.
  45.   The originality of the genius and its exemplarity must incite a certain imitation (back to Aristotle)  but one that avoids plagiarism.  We have free imitation of a freedom of genius which freely imitates divine freedom.  [Note that this is a rejection of Plato in that the string of imitations does not reduce freedom]  Kant distinguishes between imitation and copy, the two terms only being different by one letter.
  46. Then when nature has "detached genius" everything is naturalized, interpreted as nature, "the content of empirical culturalism, the political economy of art"...[it is not clear what is happening here]
  47. The second remark on salary distinguishes between the orator and the poet.
  48.  The poet is at the summit analogous to God.He gives more than he promises.  He breaks the circular economy (traditional economics.)  A transeconomy is a general economy of the subject says Nick Mansfield.
  49. Economesis "unfolds itself there to infinity" as in Hegel:  "An infinite circle plays [with] itself and uses human play to reappropriate the gift for itself."  This may refer to Hegel's Absolute.  The poet receives from nature/God the power to give more than he promises.   This "surplus value" makes its return to the infinite source.  [I wonder whether Derrida believes in God.  This sounds a bit too mystical for my taste.] And this passes through the voice.  [The next part is very poetic and the only thing one can do is quote.]  As a result the opposition between restricted and general economy is effaced.  He speaks of "passage of the infinity between gift and debt."  What is debt?
  50.  Giving more than he promises is something conceptual.  The genius is not paid but God supports him with speech and in return for gratitude.  God gives him surplus.
  51. This is poetic since God is a poet.  [Why doesn't Derrida deconstruct this hierarchy God/poet too?]
  52. This structure has its analogue in the city:  the poet must eat, must sustain the labor force.  He receives subsidies from the sun-king, Frederick the Great.  Kant's use of Frederick's poem is no accident.  There is an economics behind this, and a hierarchy.
  53.  The poem of Frederick describes the overabundance of a solar source.  The various helio-poetics of Plato, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Bataille form an analogical chain.  
  54. Derrida quotes from the poem and Kant's footnote about Isis as Mother Nature:  here the concept of virtue diffuses many sublime and restful feelings which not definite concept can match.
  55. Exemplorality.  Perhaps we are approaching the embouchure..
  56.  opening onto economimesis.
  57.   pure productivity is "a sort of gift for itself of God who makes a present of himself to himself"
  58. The analogy between God and Poet finds its origin in the logos, reason, word, the embouchure.
  59. Now it must be deconstructed.
  60. Nature furnishes rules to genius as orders.  The discursive metaphors in the text (nature says) are analogies of analogy: nature is properly logos towards which one must always return.  "Analogy is always language."
  61. Genius agrees to be nature's secretary, inspired.  It has no concept or knowledge.  
  62.  Nature also the the product of the divine genius.  Productive imagination creates a second nature.  Genius, first nature, and God.  "Such hierarchical analogy forms a society of the logos, a sociology of genius, a logoarchy."  
  63. What does it mean for analogy to be a rule.  Derrida gets very poetic/witty here:  "It means what it means and that it says that it means wheat it wants and that it wants what it wants, for example,"
  64. To continue:  "It is by example that it means that it means and that it says that it means that it wants and that it wants what it wants by example."  
  65. Analogy between the rule of art and the moral rule:  that analogy is the rule.    But the articulated play of this analogy is itself "subject to a law of supplemenarity"
  66.   The purpose-lessness leads us back to ourselves:  we seek purpose within:  we slurp, giving ourselves orders which no longer come from outside.
  67.   This is a movement of idealizing interiorisation:  for Kant we seek it in our ultimate purpose.
  68.  Not finding our purpose in our aesthetic experience we fold ourselves back towards the purpose of our Da-Sein (Heidegger: Being in the World):  we are there to respond to a vocation of autonomy/morality.  There there of our Dasein first determined by this purpose.
  69.  Here analogies multiply concerning the language of nature. We take a moral interest in the beautiful of nature:  for nature harbors a principle of harmony between its productions and our disinterested pleasure:  a harmony between purposiveness of nature and our delight.
  70. How does one announce the adherence between adherence and non-adherence?  Derrida is speaking here of the adherence of interest and disinterest.
  71. By means of signs.  This is the "primary place of signification in the third Critique."  Nature announces to us by signs and traces there must be a harmonious agreement between its purposiveness and our disinterested delight.  
  72. Meditation on this pleasure provokes a moral interest in the beautiful.  Derrida:  strange this interest taken in disinterestedness, moral revenue from production without interest, moral surplus value of the without, related to the trace and sign of nature.  We may be assured our stocks are on the moral rise.
  73. The account may seem too studied regarding the interpretation of the cipher of beautiful natural forms.
  74.  The without of pure detachment is a language nature speaks to us:  but this, in common with Heraclitus, causes the parergon to strain.
  75.   The in-significant non-language of forms, silence, is a language between nature and man
  76. The charms\, colors and sounds for example, also seem to converse:  the white color of lilies dispose us to ideas of innocence.
  77.  The trace and wink of nature do not have to be objectively regulated by conceptual science.  It is our interest in nature's communicating that matters:  we believe in the sincerity of the ciphered language.  And what speaks through the mouth of the poet also must be veridical.  If a poet speaks of a nightingale's song but it is really a trickster, that is ignoble.  Oral examples are important here:  Kant says it is ignoble to confine ourselves to eating and drinking.  Exemplorality is exemplary orality.  There is an allergy i the mouth between pure taste and actual tasting. But would not disgust, turning against actual taste, be the origin of pure taste?


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