Death of the sign

Death of the sign July 14, 2005

Still on Pickstock on Derrida. Famously, Derrida says that speech dies with its author, the sound fading on the air. Writing survives. But he claim that speech is always under erasure makes the prior assumption that death and life are mutually exclusive territories, that it is impossible for the sign to die and live at the same time, or for the sign to die in order for the sign to live. Augustine is the better phenomenologist here: The oral sign fades on the air, to be sure, but this is not its end or erasure of meaning. The syllable fades on the air in order to leave room for the next syllable, for the completion of meaning. The fading of one syllable is not an erasure of meaning but a condition for the possibility of meaning; a continuous AAAAA is meaningless, but if it fades to made room for “gra-vat-ted,” its is meaningful. Die to live, dying we live: Not just gospel, but, as Augustine saw, written into the fabric of language.

Browse Our Archives