Derrida (1930-2004) famously argued that writing preceded speech. By this I believe he meant that the “iterability” of language logically preceded its spontaneous performance.
that is, repeatable in any context whatsoever, just as this very introduction to Derrida I’m writing now must be able to signify as an introduction to Derrida after this semester is over [hey! like now!], after I’m dead, after you cease to read it, after the expiration of every element of the context in which I am composing it now. That, writes Derrida, is the very condition of writing itself, without which we simply do not recognize writing as such: if the writing is not “iterable,” it is not writing.
I’m surprised that bloggers aren’t more fond of Derrida since he was all about the ability to cite, to recontextualize, to reveal the suppressed meanings in the writings of others — everything a blogger does. One of my favorite pieces by him is the lecture-turned-into-a-book Limited Inc. in which he responds to an essay by Searle: “Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida.” In this essay he focuses on the very copyright of Searle’s manuscript:
Copyright © 1977 by John R. Searle
He wonders why it is necessary:
The whole debate might boil down to the question: does John R. Searle “sign” his reply? Does he make use of his right to reply? Of his rights as author? But what makes him think that these rights might be questioned, that someone might try to teal them form him, or that there could be any mistake concerning the attribution of his original produciton? How would this be possible? Can the thing be expropriated, alienated? Would anyone dream of countersigning or counterfeiting his signature? Why would anyone repeat this gesture and what would such a repetition signify? Why should or would it remain outside of the text, above the title or below the “normal” boundary of the page? What of all the relations involved in the legal and political context of the “copyright,” including the complexity of its system and of its history?” Why are copyright utterances making a serious claim at truth? Had I asserted a copyright, “for saying things that are obviously false,” there could have been no doubt as to its appropriateness. But that John R. Searle should be so concerned with his copyright, for saying things that are obviously true, gives one pause to reflect upon the truth of the copyright and the copyright of the truth.”
Good questions. For more on Derrida’s philosophy, I suggest this Wikipedia page on “deconstruction.”
(thanks to Amardeep for the Michael Bérubé link)