some notes on touching (writing)

Derrida, Jacques. On Touching – Jean-luc Nancy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. Print.

To remember:

  • I sense, but I still do not know what to tough, to touch him [le toucher] means-I know it less and less … How is one to touch, without touching, the sense of touch? Shouldn’t the sense of touch touch us, for something to come about at last-an event, as some say, a little tiresomely, a singular event (!!), before any constative statement, any performative mastering act or convention, before any event that we would still produce by way of an act of language and on the background of a foreseeable horizon, even before we touch it, or perhaps if it does not anticipate in this fashion, then at the same time at which we touch it, as if the idea itself of simultaneity, even continuity were born for the first time in contact with the contact between two points of contact? Tangentially? (135).
  • there is no “the” sense of touch, there is no “originary” or essentially originary touching before it, before its necessary possibility-for any living being in general, and well before “the hand of man” and all its imaginable substitutes. A technique, a mechanical technique, is what can discriminate or “perceive” by functioning with the simulacrum of something “sensible” but is not “feeling” … and above all does not feel itself feel-and thus remains anesthetic in the very place where the machine supplies, and thus remains anesthetic in the very place where a machine supplies, and stands in for, sense. And there where the self-relation of a “self-touching” is missing, for example, be it in what we term our “body proper,” the place opens up for some machine, some prosthesis, some metonymic substitute, and some sense replacing some other sense (224).
  • I refer to this as an aporia because, first of all, concerning touch, everythign started in this book with what Aristotle’s Peri psuchēs already calls aporias. But it is also because the force of the remarkable book by Didier Franck, Chair et corps: Sur la phénoménologie de Husserl … particularly stems from its own tireless debate with certain aporias of phenomenology (226).
  • Why does one say “to touch” for “to speak of,” “to concern,” “to aim,” “to refer to,” in general, and so forth? Is it because touch, as Aristotle said, is not a “unique sense”? More and more, Nancy plays this game-the most serious game there is-which consists in using, as if there were not the slightest problem, this common and ancestral figure of tactile language in order to draw our attention to “‘the’ sense of touch” itself-that there is not (268).
  • Absent reconstruction here of all the developments that tell of the exscription of writing, of the trace as self effacement, let us just read the lines that are closest to this analytics of touch-there where it overflows itself, figuring or fictionalizing itself, in a quasi-transcendental-ontological hyper-analytics. This analytics calls into question “all material or spiritual modalities of a presence full of sense, charged with sense (276).

As soon as writing touches the body … writing loses touch itself. Writing has only to trace it or efface it. But the body is not lost in the simple exteriority of a “physical” or “concrete” presence. Rather, it is lost to all material or spiritual modalities of a presence full of sense, charged with sense. And if writing loses the body, loses its own body, à corpus perdu, this occurs to the extent to which it inscribes presence beyond all recognized modalities of presence. To inscribe presence is not to (re)present it or signify it, but to let come to one and over one what merely presents itself at the limit where inscription itself withdraws (or excribes itself, writes outside itself) … The experience named writing is the violent exhaustion of the discourse in which “all sense” is altered, not into another sense or the other way, but in this exscribed body (276). -Jean-luc Nancy

To consume:

  • Aristotle’s De anima
  • Didier Franck, Chair et corps: Sur la phénoménologie de Husserl
  • more Derrida
  • more Nancy
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