nikki moore

Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

all but the kitchen sink, maybe…

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm

today i am again reading derrida on husserl

and today

somehow

it sounds like zizek.

it could have been the evening.  i’ve been meeting weekly over dinner with a very interesting group of people who are thinking and talking and aiming toward sustainability and there is no easy way to ease into the way, tonight, it felt like church.  small groups really.  the kind that meet in houses, the kind that evangelicalism loves to foster…

either that or an AA meeting.

which is not to say i didn’t enjoy it.  that i won’t go back or that somehow all those lose ends and addictions didn’t look just like mine.

at least part of what is at work in groups like these is a new way of filling the community forming gap that has long been bridged by churches, nuclear family models, arts organizations, schools.  but today, pick your community-building institution of choice and you will find it either struggling, obsolete, oppressive or bankrupt.

enter sustainability.  the movement steps into all the shoes we thought we’d lost… it is, as you’ve heard me rant before, what zizek calls the next utopian movement, the next opiate for the masses.

but if we stop there, we’re just recycling.

what struck me as new tonight was the arrival of derrida and husserl to this same bread-baking table.  the convergence looks, loosely, like this:

in an early text on Husserl (1967), Derrida works out the ways in which presentation is always re-presentation.  in other words, Husserl hung more than a robe on the separation of what we might (liberally) term church and state.  but that is getting way ahead.

sticking slowly with Derrida, Speech and Phenomena outlines the way in which Husserl invokes two arguments related to inward speech, (think: the conversations you have with yourself in the shower, or on your way to work that occur entirely ‘in your head’ like: “today i’ll try to eat lunch before three” or “i really should have taken out the trash,”).  The first is that inward speech is imaginary and representational, rather than communicative or indicating.  The second states that self-communication is useless and redundant as the self is immediately present to itself and thus needs nothing spoken to it.

While Derrida uses page after page to do so with more skill and care than i can here apply, the work being done in unmasking logocentrism begins by outlining the implicit assumptions above inward speech to show that by the nature of the sign/signification itself, presentation is always representation.  The same move is made with regard to the implicit speech/writing distinction Husserl rely’s on, defaulting while also pulling at the tradition.  At issue in both moves is an understanding of presence that Derrida is about to derail.  Looking back to Saussure for the switch, Derrida writes:

Phonic signs (“acoustical images” in Saussure’s sense, or the phenomenological voice) are heard [entendus = “heard” and also “understood”] by the subject who proffers them in the absolute proximity of their present.  The subject does not have to pass forth beyond himself to be immediately affected by his expressive activity.  My words are “alive” because they seem not to leave me: not to fall outside me, outside my breath, at a visable distance; not to cease to belong to me, to be at my disposition “without further props.”   Derrida, speech and phenomena

Of course the false unity of self-presence is what Derrida goes into and after by showing, in the paragraphs to follow the quote above, that both writing and signification, presume and function via distance, repetition and even death.  Derrida actually works this connection out first by explaining the way in which signification, language really operates via 1) repetition and 2) difference.  in other words, as we’ve examined in past posts, in order for the sign ‘woman’ to be recognizable over time and when assigned/applied to different women, the word ‘woman’ must be repeatable – i.e., not tied to or used up when applied to an absolute singularity or particularity, and also, it must be able to sign over difference, over change – as one woman is short and 35 years old with brown hair, speaking chinese, another will be tall and 58 years old, bald from chemotherapy, speaking english and yet we can still call each a woman.  as the sign ‘woman’ is transported and translated from one usage to the next, it is a repetition of itself that always carries difference within it.  language itself is the function of this repetition of difference, spoken, written or other-wise, pure presence or as Husserl calls it, ideality, is a myth.

this is moving way too quickly, once again, but as i’m not the first to explicate Speech and Phenomena, or supplementarity/differance/iterability as this movement of difference and repetition is later termed in the Derridian corpus, i will ask you to forgive the rapidity and turn to the source material for greater depth and adequate slowness.  save that,

we are back to zizek.

or zizek is still with derrida.

Derrida’s work on logocentrism is an unmasking of the fallible phallus of presence.  zizek, by the same token, via kant, takes a similar course of action in his work on/against/up/through Christianity.  claiming to be always more christian than the christians Zizek takes the death of jesus to be the death of god.  the fallibility of the phallus/master signifier revealed.  for Zizek, it is only at the full frontal stop this death should issue that christians can in fact be christian at all as it is this death that loses people to institute their own laws, states, etc that are not already pure extensions of the masterful godhead.  it is only then that morality has any meaning as it is a series of self-made rules we agree to hold holy, rather than the actual dictate and ontological reality of life as we know it, to which there would be no choice, no following, only rote remote control robotics.

combining these two, or rather, recognizing where Derrida and Zizek are (oddly and yes, you will hear Zizek protest loudly over this!) on the same page: it is death, it is writing, it is presence that fails that allows difference to emerge.  that allows for volition, that allows for political action, that allows for self-forming communities.

while we have been 40 years now with the philosophical/textual implications of this differance, we are only now beginning to see the movement of deconstruction or, if you prefer zizek’s terms, christianity in his radicalized sense, insitu, in operation in lives, objects, networks…

groups like the one i just came from are part of this work.  sustainability is a part of this working through.  inopperative communities without master signifiers, without hierarchy but not without imperatives, hopes, political possibilities and activated actors.  it is a series of works in progress, experiments in ‘unworking’ that we are living in a post-institutional era of institution building.

at least that, amongst other things…


the delightful disorder of things

In what is philosophy? on July 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

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in two very interesting posts, (here and here) levi bryant at larval subjects is exploring something he is calling separately, the ‘factory of truth’ and aesthetics.  given my time in the MIT architecture theory department and the love for arranged objects that lead me into that program, i am always interested in thinking these connections.  further… as mentioned in a previous post, i saw Food, Inc. this week and was struck by the parallels between philosophy and docudrama.  pairing these and whatever lurks below the surface in this interest of mine, my suspicion, if not my claim (which is a phrase altogether too neil armstrong to be taken seriously…) is that  what philosophy, docudrama and aesthetics are up to is something we could tentatively call plain, old-fashioned collage.

i.e.:

as a painter, writer, scientist, housewife are about the businesses of juxtaposition – arranging paint and paper, arranging diapers and play-dates, arranging data and documentation – the accumulations of all of these people, places, things and thoughts (latour’s ‘actors’) create living arrangements.  on one level, the actors themselves are self-displaying, self-arranging, making themselves and their regions of concern into collages of all sorts filled with unexpected and unnoticed actors, as well as predetermined plot points or points of interest they hope will be noticed.

it is in the noticing, the arranging, in setting up an ‘order of things’ that philosophy enters and, as levi pointed out in one of the abovementioned posts, lags behind like the owl of minerva, tracing and retracing, translating all the while, layering collage upon collage into a gallery of philosophical ideas and concepts.  in this, i might maintain that philosophy is not unlike art, is not unlike science – as each mode of production lags behind and lurches beside, all the while producing all the more, what it thinks it is merely picturing or describing… thinking philosophy as docudrama this production, (latour via levi’s ‘no transportation without translation’,) is a discipline in its most aesthetic mode.

while there is more to be thought here, i will now happily defer to someone who said this years ago and much better…

excerpted  from Michel Foucault’s preface to

The Order of Things

Preface

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1 et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.


But what is it impossible to think, and what kind of impossibility are we faced with here? Each of these strange categories can be assigned a precise meaning and a demonstrable content; some of them do certainly involve fantastic entities – fabulous animals or sirens – but, precisely because it puts them into categories of their own, the Chinese encyclopaedia localizes their powers of contagion; it distinguishes carefully between the very real animals (those that are frenzied or have just broken the water pitcher) and those that reside solely in the realm of imagination. The possibility of dangerous mixtures has been exorcized, heraldry and fable have been relegated to their own exalted peaks: no inconceivable amphibious maidens, no clawed wings, no disgusting, squamous epidermis, none of those polymorphous and demoniacal. faces, no creatures breathing fire. The quality of monstrosity here does not affect any real body, nor does it produce modifications of any kind in the bestiary of the imagination; it does not lurk in the depths of any strange power. It would not even be present at all in this classification had it not insinuated itself into the empty space, ’the interstitial blanks separating all these entities from one another. It is not the ‘fabulous’ animals that are impossible, since they are designated as such, but the narrowness of the distance separating them from (and juxtaposing them to) the stray dogs, or the animals that from a long way off look like flies. What transgresses the boundaries of all imagination, of all possible thought, is simply that alphabetical series (a, b, c, d) which links each of those categories to all the others.



Moreover, it is not simply the oddity of unusual juxtapositions that we are faced with here. We are all familiar with the disconcerting effect of the proximity of extremes, or, quite simply, with the sudden vicinity of things that have no relation to each other; the mere act of enumeration that heaps them all together has a power of enchantment all its own: ‘I am no longer hungry,’ Eusthenes said. ‘Until the morrow, safe from my saliva all the following shall be: Aspics, Acalephs, Acan thocephalates, Amoebocytes, Ammonites, Axolotls, Amblystomas, Aphislions, Anacondas, Ascarids, Amphisbaenas, Angleworms, Amphipods, Anaerobes, Annelids, Anthozoans. . . .’ But all these worms and snakes, all these creatures redolent of decay and slime are slithering, like the syllables which designate them, in Eusthenes’ saliva: that is where they all have their common locus, like the umbrella and the sewing-machine on the operating table; startling though their propinquity may be, it is nevertheless warranted by that and by that in, by that on whose solidity provides proof of the possibility of juxtaposition. It was certainly improbable that arachnids, ammonites, and annelids should one day mingle on Eusthenes’ tongue, but, after all, that welcoming and voracious mouth certainly provided them with a feasible lodging, a roof under which to coexist.



The monstrous quality that runs through Borges’ enumeration consists, on the contrary, in the fact that the common ground on which such meetings are possible has itself been destroyed. What is impossible is not the propinquity of the things listed, but the very site on which their propinquity would be possible. The animals ‘(i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush’ – where could they ever meet, except in the immaterial sound of the voice pronouncing their enumeration, or on the page transcribing it? Where else could they be juxtaposed except in the non-place of language? Yet, though language can spread them before us, it can do so only in an unthinkable space. The central category of animals ‘included in the present classification’, with its explicit reference to paradoxes we are familiar with, is indication enough that we shall never succeed in defining a stable relation of contained to container between each of these categories and that which includes them all: if all the animals divided up here can be placed without exception in one of the divisions of this list, then aren’t all the other divisions to be found in that one division too? And then again, in what space would that single, inclusive division have its existence? Absurdity destroys the and of the enumeration by making impossible the in where the things enumerated would be divided up. Borges adds no figure to the atlas of the impossible; nowhere does he strike the spark of poetic confrontation; he simply dispenses with the least obvious, but most compelling, of necessities; he does away with the site, the mute ground upon which it is possible for entities to be juxtaposed. A vanishing trick that is masked or, rather, laughably indicated by our alphabetical order, which is to be taken as the clue (the only visible one) to the enumerations of a Chinese encyclopaedia. . . . What has been removed, in short, is the famous ‘operating table’; and rendering to Roussel1 a small part of what is still his due, I use that word ‘table’ in two superimposed senses: the nickel plated, rubbery table swathed in white, glittering beneath a glass sun devouring all shadow – the table where, for an instant, perhaps forever, the umbrella encounters the sewing machine; and also a table, a tabula, that enables thought to operate upon the entities of our world, to put them in order, to divide them into classes, to group them according to names that designate their similarities and their differences – the table upon which, since the beginning of time, language has intersected space.



That passage from Borges kept me laughing a long time, though not without a certain uneasiness that I found hard to shake off…

reading the labels

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm

food, inc.

if you haven’t seen it, and you haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, i recommend it about an hour after eating.  that it begins with a very clever convergence of the opening credits with standard supermarket signage still gives me pause.  (should that let me know upfront that the directors, writers and producers are aware that this film is as prepackaged as the tyson chicken they expose..?  is this their way of telling the viewer they are on board with the stonyfield model of becoming goliath?  and if so, kudos for consistency in/on labeling…)  that it is heavy handed and a bit condescending toward the viewer strikes me as problematic… but all that aside, that it ends with ‘what can we do’ suggestions is what, in more ways than one, i hope to ‘take-out’ from food, inc.

that and the philosophy as docudrama correspondence, though that may have to wait as for now i’m going to let this chicken grow to term without antibiotics, without growth hormones, i.e. slowly…

and see what may or may not develop in the place of over-ripe breasts.

moving from is/ought to is/want

In difference on July 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

in a meeting of the curious yesterday morning, i ran up against an old… should we say… friend?

here is how we met, again:

in a lengthy and lovely discussion on gadamer, derrida, foucault and others, parsing and pausing to see where we all stood, i predictably took the the side of endless play.  of differance, of difference.  my two wise and generous interlocutors then whittled our discussion right down to that ever present stopgap, the relativity question.  you’ve heard it before, but once again: if there is no ground, no foundation… how can one act and essentially, from what point can we issue care?

it’s an old question.  or a newly old question, issuing from the enlightenment which ushered in the era of reason.  either way, the lines have been drawn so many times I won’t repeat them here.  what i would like to repeat is something like jean jacques rousseau’s question, tortured as he was in asking it…  yet before we get there

let’s slow things down a bit:

first, the relativity question is most usually a problem for ethicists, for political theorists, for those who are asking hard questions about what it is to be a we.  understandably the absence of ground often elicits anxiety in those who want to formulate an ethics.  many want things to be true in order to build out an ethics from that solid truth.  but is that the only option?  if derrida, foucault, deleuze and others propose what deleuze calls a groundless ground, is there no way to separate out what is (groundlessness) from what we’d like to have instead (modes of learning to live peacefully and healthily together)?  is there no way to move from the is/ought to the is/want?

or are we already about the business of this shift daily?

take 18th, 19th and 20th century democracy, marxism or socialism for example.  there was a time when the divine right of kings grounded present politics in an eternal truth claim.  enter the enlightenment, the french revolution, the american revolution, etc… somewhere down the line a group of (yes, mainly) men said we’re done with this.  we’d like to change the terms.  entering into a social contract, new lines were drawn, new truth claims laid down and voila… ground out of groundlessness, something from nothing.

of course i know the critiques to be made, the banners to be raised: what gave these men the right to lay things out as they did?  who is to say that what they found representative or socially responsible, or equitable is equitable for you, and representative of us…  essentially, who decides what is to be decided?

and of course, without a universal truth for ground, this questions evokes unanswerable torrents in its wake.  this very line of questioning can, and probably has been, applied to every divine right claim through the ages.  and yet, there is the constitution.  a document which might better serve us were it considered a living document, up for revision, as one jefferson proposed, but which stands, nonetheless, on ground no more firm than the water in your sink.  we’ve simply agreed and continue to agree that there is something like an unalienable right, amongst other agreements.  and while we would do well even to call rights into question, to say that because we are groundless means we cannot decide to pour a foundation seems not only false, but blind to life as we live it.

as quickly as i write this, with rousseau’s social contract shadowing my every key stroke, i am aware of the decisionism also looming in my above argument.  the echos of liberalism, the horrible lurkings of adam smith.  so let me be as clear as i can in saying that the proposed move from is/ought to is/want does not have to take the current shapes we know, love, hate or ignore. the actor networks in play during the formation of the united states of america did not have to produce american hegemony, capitalist globalization, etc… given a groundless ground things can and still could be otherwise.  this is where relativity and its persisting question is at its most productively freeing: perhaps ethics no longer needs a universal truth to build from and what ethicists choose to build are structures as free as the birds.  perhaps this is the beauty of this possibility.  while the is/ought is pre-stocked (the ramifications of a given ‘is’ (although ‘given’ is quite the oxymoron here) necessitate a set of particular oughts) the outcome of the is/want is wide open to the free play of hope.  echoing judith butler’s work on performativity, my (albeit tentatively) proposed is/want means that the new social contracts – be they between two, between ten or between ten million, are actors on an infinite stage of possibility.  or they could be.  this is of course, more in theory than in practice, but it is theory we are dealing with in the relativity question.  daily life sorts this out without flinching as we think and act toward how best to show love to those we care for, as we think and act toward both the upholding and the questioning of laws, of social justice.

moving from is/ought (from formulating ontologies) to is/want – (formulating modes of praxis)… sidelining the relativity question and enabling community formation.  it seems all to easy.

surely i am missing something…

more than a play on words…

In what is philosophy? on July 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

after a break, moving boxes, moving books…

books and boxes.

returning to charles taylor, where i left off more than a week ago.  taylor, in overcoming epistemology, issues a challenge, a call to arms… tracing epistemology through the sciences to post-modernism (which i propose is more accurately structuralism and it’s posts-) where it gets lost in solipsism, only to be found again in and by the hermeneutic tradition.  what is at stake for taylor is a knowing that allows us to engage the world and others in it.  he is looking a ‘serious argument’ from the other side (foucault, derrida and nietzsche).  from ronell (see stupidity), derrida (limited. inc) and even rousseau (the confessions) i am learning to be leery of the serious.  and yet,

or perhaps because…

i would like to respond.  before this can happen, if it can happen at all, a critical clarification seems to be in order.  i am not the first to make it: as levi bryant at larval subjects writes it, there is epistemology and there is ontology.  this seemingly straightforward discussion gets repeatedly muddied by conversants who pit themselves against derrida, foucault and nietzsche, as well as by those who rise to the latter’s defense.  the confusion is, ironically, understandable.  in nietzsche’s work, epistemology and ontology are notable bedfellows.  if, reductively, might makes right… then the way we know and see and read the world is what that world becomes.  in foucault, discursive modes carve out and create the world we see, live in and reciprocally determine even while being determined in the exchange.  and in derrida, language strong-arms ways of knowing to such a degree that nature/culture, method/truth (and we could add here epistemology/ontology) cannot be distinguished.  clearly the move to muddy epistemology and ontology in these thinkers has it’s ground.

yet as ground is precisely in question…

i’d like to spend some time with one of derrida’s better known texts: “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” (1966).  working through levi strauss’ research into the incest prohibition, derrida finds, with strauss, that the distinction between nature and culture is suspended in this universal no-no:

This scandal is the incest prohibition.  The incest prohibition is universal; in this sense one could call it natural.  But it is also a prohibition, a system of norms and interdicts; in this sense one could call it cultural…  Derrida, Structure Sign and Play.

and yet how did we get to incest from epistemology and ontology?  allow me a long quote from levi strauss to help make the connection:

let us suppose then that everything universal in man relates to the natural order, and is characterized by spontaneity, and that everything subject to a norm is cultural and is both relative and particular.  we are then confronted with a fact, or rather, a group of facts, which, in the light of previous definitions, are not far removed from a scandal; we refer to that complex group of beliefs, customs, conditions and institutions described succinctly as the prohibition of incest, which presents, without the slightest ambiguity, and inseparably combines, the two characteristics in which we recognize the conflicting features of two mutually exclusive orders.  it constitutes a rule, but a rule which, alone among all social rules, possesses at the same time a universal character.      from the elementary structures of kinship, strauss.

in the slippage, what derrida will call the play of nature and culture, the red thread is revealed in its unraveling: what we had posited as natural, as out there, as ontological is at one with what we had posited as cultural, as historically situated, as epistemological.  the impact of this find is dramatic: revealing for both strauss and derrida that the ways we know, our abilities to think a thing, an institution, a prohibition shape what we see and encounter in the world.  this is not too far afield from heidegger, either.  and on first read, perhaps this is the derrida everyone seems to know..? the derrida taylor all too quickly (and bizarrely) associates with ‘the spiritual stance of self-making… (p. 16)’ the derrida who claims the center is de-centered, oddly unaware that he is re-positing a center in the statement of decentering.  ahhh… if all our theoretical enemies were only so easy…

permit me another long quote, this time from derrida, to re-complicate this story:

This example [incest prohibition], too cursorily examined, is only one among many others, but nevertheless it already shows that language bears within itself the necessity of its own critique.  Now this critique may be undertaken along two paths, in two “manners.” Once the limit of the nature/culture opposition makes itself felt, one might want to question systematically and rigorously the history of these concepts.  This is a first action.  Such a systematic and historic questioning would be neither a philological nor a philosophical action in the classic sense of these words.  To concern oneself with the founding concepts of the entire history of philosophy, to deconstitute them, is not to undertake the work of the philologist or of the classic historian of philosophy.  Despite appearances, it is probably the most daring way of making the beginnings of a step outside of philosophy.         Structure, Sign and Play (p. 285 in Writing and Difference), [brackets] mine.

so here, finally and surely, this is the derrida we all know..?  moving through the history of philosophy, systematically pulling up concepts that complicate binaries and deconstitute foundations?  surely this is the derrida who initiates the return to solipsism, to what did taylor call it… “self-making” as he peels back all other founding possibilities to reveal the worms below.

still again, this derrida, this antagonist is yet all too simple:

the other choice (which I believe corresponds more closely to Levi-Strauss’s manner), in order to avoid the possibly sterilizing effects of the first one, consists in conserving all these old concepts within th domain of empirical discovery while here and there denouncing their limits, treating them as tools which can still be used.  no longer is any truth value attributed to them; there is a readiness to abandon them, if necessary, should other instruments appear more useful.  in the meantime, their relative efficacy is expolited, and they are employed to destroy the old machinery to which they belong and of which they themselves are pieces.  this is how the language of the social sciences criticizes itself.  levi-strauss thinks that in this way he can separate method from truth, the instruments of the method and the objective significations envisaged by it.  one could almost say that this is the primary affirmation of levi-strauss; in any event, the first words of the Elementary Structures are: “Above all, it is beginning to emerge that this distinction between nature and society (‘nature’ and ‘culture’ seem preferable to us today) while of no acceptable historical significance, does contain a logic, fully justifying its use by modern sociology as a methodological tool.”

given his way of surprise, and the very move to rethink essence and appearance, it would be premature to say this is in fact Derrida as he’d prefer to be read.  but in the three derrida’s we’ve now seen and read, the pop image (if there is anything popular about these sorts of people, discussions, etc..) begins to shift and dissolve.  stepping just back or aside from a rigorous upheaval of history,  in this derrida, in this paragraph, we read derrida reading strauss and there is a (shocking?) pragmatism in the idea that even broken tools (metaphysics) must/can/will still be used, must still be taken up, until something better comes along.  does this give pause to the idea that derrida was unaware of the metaphysical loop that his digs at metaphysics inevitably succumb to..?  to say that derrida, even heidegger were aware that there is no escape – there is no outside of the text – is not to say there is nothing beyond what we make up, what we construct.  it is to say, amongst other things, that in our very attempts to get ‘beyond’ epistemology, metaphysics, etc… we are repeatedly and undeniably caught in the webs we are examining and that derrida was clearly aware of this.

yet moving back into this last quoted paragraph, derrida writes: “the other choice… in order to avoid the sterilizing effects of the first one…” after positing two paths derrida recommends not the one less traveled by, but the one less sterile.  less sterilizing.  in the last two years, derrida has either come under harsh attack or dismissed with the argument that you can’t do anything with deconstruction except deconstruct.  perhaps this call for something other than sterility, (would its opposite be passion? (re)production? even a little dirt?) could also give pause to this critique.

and where does this leave us in regard to the epistemology/ontology distinction we began with?  while i am accusing taylor of such a mix-up, am i not inevitably engaged in the same cycle?

my response to taylor’s call is to offer something other than what he has been served thus far and to ask of him and his readers what precisely they are after in calling nietzsche, derrida and foucault to account.  in the process i hope i have debunked a few of the most sterilizing myths surrounding what derrida was writing, where deconstruction found its own fathers (heidegger, strauss) and clarified the stakes for what could eventually begin to formulate a response to Taylor.  to read derrida as thinker of nihilism, via nietzsche, is not to read him close enough.  concluding with derrida, this point is made with voice and vigor:

turned towards the lost or impossible presence of the absent origin, this structuralist thematic of broken immediacy is therefore the saddened, negative, nostaligic, guilty, Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play whose other side would be nietzschean affirmation, that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin which his offered to an active interpretation.  This affirmation then determines the noncenter otherwise than as loss of center…

there are thus two interpretations of interpretation, of structure, of sign, of play.  the one seeks to decipher, dreams of deciphering a truth or an origin which escapes play and the order of the sign, and which lives the necessity of interpretation as an exile.  the other, which is no longer turned toward the origin, affirms play and tries to pass beyond man and humanism, the name of man being the name of that being who, throughout the history of metaphysics or of ontotheology – in other words, throughout his entire history – has dreamed of full presence, the reassuring foundation, the origin and the end of play…

for my part, although these two interpretations must acknowledge and accentuate their difference and define their irreducibility, i do not believe that today there is any question of choosing – in the first place because here we are in a region (let us say, provisionally, a region of historicity) where the category of choice seems particularly triviall; and in the second, because we must first try to conceive of the common ground, and the differance of this irreducible difference…                  derrida, structure sign and play [extractions from the concluding paragraphs].

if taylor was asking for a way to engage the world and others, the move to ‘conceive of the common ground…’

perhaps..?