Derrida, Foucault, and the University

June 28, 2007

By Rajan, Tilottama

Reading between Derrida and Foucault, this paper situates deconstruction within Foucault’s reorganization of knowledge in The Order of Things. While Foucault abandons this work for a history of material practices, Derrida’s writings on the university continue it, but with a new and strategically Foucaultian focus on governmentality and power. In the 1980s and thereafter, Jacques Derrida began to explore explicitly the question of the university implicit in his earlier characterization of his work as concerned with “writing,”"history” (as the history of metaphysics), and “science”; or in other words, with the organization of knowledge. Turning to the university rather than this broader field outlined in Of Grammatology (3), Derrida, especially through his work on Kant, took up the intersection between the fact of “institution,” or discursive power, and the university as an idea: a faculty or potentiality of mind. In this paper, I place Derrida’s plea for a university without condition alongside Foucault’s reflection on the human and countersciences at the end of The Order of Things, so as to frame the deconstructive project within a larger history of the relations between knowledge, the university, and the state that Derrida evokes in his Du droit a la philosophie. The last two chapters of The Order of Things are a trenchant critique of the doubled, duplicitous being of the human sciences, from the perspective of what Foucault calls “countersciences,”which constitute a “perpetual principle of dissatisfaction” that exposes knowledge to its finitude (373). The countersciences are not so much a nameable body of counter-disciplines, nor of unnamed new forms of knowledge that Derrida calls “intersciences” (Eyes 205-206), as a kind of non-knowledge at the heart of all positive (or posited) knowledge that forces man to “traverse, duplicate, and reactivate in an explicit form the articulation of thought on everything within it, around it, and beneath it which is not thought, yet which is nevertheless not foreign to thought” (Order 324). Yet, given the quasi-systematic focus on specific disciplines, arranged in the three orders of sciences, human sciences, and countersciences, one can see Foucault as constructing something like what Immanuel Kant calls a “conflict [Streit] of facul-ties” so as to explore the place, within a new organization of knowledge, of a philosophy that in the sixties was increasingly under siege.

In short, through the unworking of the cogito of scientia by its unthought, Foucault, at the end of The Order of Things, outlines a deconstructive university, a university after the ruin of the university, to evoke Bill Readings’s work, The University in Ruins, three decades later. Derrida in his later work thinks this unconditional university transcendentally (in Kant’s sense of the term), while Foucault, with his emphasis on specific disciplines and their interconnections, deploys a mixed transcendental-empirical discourse. But this should not obscure the fact that, for Foucault, who does not name the university, the university is also a utopia, a non-place, which should not be hypostatized because it is, and always will be, still to come. Insofar as his quadrilateral of transcendental categories-the cogito and the unthought, the empirical and the transcendental, the return and the retreat of the origin, and the analytic of finitude- is not adequately embodied in the countersciences he adduces, such as psychoanalysis, the last section of Foucault’s Order is no more than a diagram. As such, its function, as Gilles Deleuze says of the diagram in painting, is “to be ‘suggestive’ [. . .] to introduce ‘possibilities of fact’ [. . .] [that] do not yet constitute a fact” (101), empirical possibilities that must always be unmoored from their potential positivism by being thought transcendentally.

Derrida does not often engage with Foucault, and not on the subject of the archive and archeology of knowledge and its relation to the university. Nevertheless, there is much in common between their epistemo-critical projects in the 1960s: the period of the university crisis, when both were writing on “the end of man.” Moreover, Derrida’s Archive Fever also implicitly remembers Foucault’s “conflagration of the archive” in “Fantasia of the Library,” not to mention the notions of archaeology, document, and monument in The Archaeology of Knowledge. The writings on the university, in other words, are the culmination of an underground dialogue between Derrida and Foucault that marks deconstruction, in the broadly interdisciplinary and epistemic rather than literary mode I have outlined in my book Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology (1-4, 23-33), as a large-scale reorganization of knowledge. I argue, then, that the implications of Derrida’s early work for this project can be better grasped if we approach it by way of Foucault’s more explicit articulation of deconstructive thought as part of a history of rationalities from the Renaissance to modernity. On the other hand, Foucault is curiously reticent about the university crisis that lies in the background of The Order, a reticence only exacerbated by the elusiveness of the later Archeology of Knowledge. This reticence and his closing off of the future through the erasure of the figure of man, even if it is to make available as “counterscience” what might otherwise be a positivist history of ideas, dispossess what he is doing of a certain contemporary urgency. It is this urgency that Derrida, whose work, even in the Sixties, is more oriented to the future that the counterscience of grammatology makes possible, foregrounds by explicitly raising the issue of the university. As well as providing a framework for Foucault’s more detailed yet contextually obscure reconfiguration of the space of knowledge, Derrida also provides a genealogy for this project going back to Descartes and Kant and proceeding through Friedrich Schelling’s On The Method of Academic Study.1 A corollary of this silent dialogue between Derrida and Foucault is thus that deconstruction, and the role Derrida gives in it to philosophy, is at heart a project that pertains to the university. Yet the relationship of the two thinkers from the Sixties to the Eighties is as much critical as symbiotic. For Foucault, after 1968, abandons the idea(l) of a university to come, turning instead to the realities of power and governmentality. It is then Derrida who brings the question of the university back into the public sphere, so as to deal precisely with the relation between the Idea (of the university, of deconstruction) and the realities of discursive power.

That Derrida’s work involves an unsettling of the onto- epistemological foundations of science, which is also Foucault’s aim in The Order of Things, is clearest in the texts culminating in Of Grammatology. The three studies of Edmund Husserl with which Derrida begins his career inaugurate a questioning of “the nature of philosophy as science” like that undertaken by Schelling in the essay of that name, which critiques philosophy’s imagining of itself in the mirror of mathematics through its synecdochic self- identification with logic. Taking issue with Kant’s preference for mathematics over the “asystasy”-the potential untidiness and asystematicity-of philosophy, Schelling writes: “It is as though one preferred a stereometrically regular crystal” because “the former has no possibility of falling ill, while the latter hosts germs of every possible illness” (“Nature” 212). In this later 1821 text, then, Schelling retreats from the place he accords mathematics in his “outline” of the sciences, in The Method of Academic Study, where it is coupled with philosophy as one of the two “central organs” of knowledge and as a science of “pure reason” that provides an external version or formalization of the spirit of philosophy (41- 42, 48). Following in the wake of this later Schelling, therefore, Derrida, in his first two studies of Husserl, The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy and The Origin of Geometry, takes up Husserl’s understanding of arithmetic and geometry in terms of the “empirical-transcendental doubling” that, for Foucault, constitutes the bad faith at the heart of the human sciences. For Foucault, these quasi-sciences are trapped in an unintended reflexiveness because they deal both with “what man is in his positivity” and with what enables him to “know (or seek to know) what life is,” which makes it impossible for him to posit himself with certainty. This inability of the human sciences to achieve the status of “science” is evident in the impossibility of defining a “pure economics and a pure linguistics” (Order 353), with the result that these disciplines are stranded in the faculties of social science or humanities. The aporia of the human sciences lies in the fact that, for psychology, economics, or sociology, man is both the subject and object of research. It is therefore “a question of revealing the conditions of knowledge” that are the goal of Kantian transcendental thought “on the basis of the empirical contents given in it” (318- 19), which are at odds with the universalism that science seeks in wanting knowledge uncontaminated by human (or liv-ing) variants. For Derrida, this duplicity that Foucault explores only with reference to the human sciences as the Achilles heel of science also reaches into the very heart of the pure sciences. Thus, in arithmetic we confront the problem of how to conceive “arithmetical essences”"separately and outside experience”: how to conceive the number ten outside of the concrete instance of ten cats (Problem 29). The larger problem of which the mixed empirical-transcendental nature of all science is a symptom is the one Derrida addresses in his first study of Husserl: that of the genesis and purity of knowledge itself. For Husserl wants to speak of arithmetic and geometry as founding a new concept of science. Yet he must not conceive this originality as originating, as in any way contingent, since “genetic becoming is the concern of the natural and human sciences only,” the “‘vague’ and a posteriori sciences” of “biology, psychophysiology, sociology and history.” The purity of knowledge, then, requires that arithmetic and geometry be instituted in the auto-affection of a “transcendental gen-esis,” which is impossible since a “genesis” is by definition always “worldly” or empirical (1- 2, 13-15, 53-54). It is no accident that Derrida should seize upon the seemingly esoteric topic of Husserl’s philosophy of mathematics. For, from the later perspective of Derrida’s studies of the university, the transference between philosophy and mathematics central to Husserl’s work is precisely what continues, even today, to underwrite the institutional-ity of philosophy departments in their exclusion of continental from analytic philosophy and the “philosophy of science.” For Husserl, as he explains it in The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, “Euclidean geometry and the rest of Greek mathematics” are “fragments” of “our” more “developed sciences” that begin an “immense” reorganization of knowledge “whereby universal tasks [are] set.” What is “new, unprecedented” in these disciplines, regarded as metonyms for “science” or knowledge, is the idea of a “rational infinite totality of being with a rational science systematically mastering it.” This mastery, in turn, is dependent on the positing of “ideal objects” purified of the differences that inhabit them in the “undetermined [. . .] life-world,” and thus rendered “determinable univocally, methodically, and quite universally for everyone.” In “the infinite progression of this method,” Husserl further claims, “every object is fully attained according to its full being-in-itself “: a phrase that clearly betrays the way in which a mode of knowing becomes a mode of being through a transference on the part of the knowing subject (21-22, 32). The opening of this transference in Derrida’s early work marks deconstruction, as he later says, as having to do with “systems” or with a “whole architecture of philosophy” (Points 212): with the “inner jointure, external manipulation, [and] framework” that, in Heidegger’s words, amounts to a “definitely directed and comprehended opening and holding open of the world” (18, 26). For Derrida, in his early work, system is the standing together (systasis) of an architectonic of related assumptions, such that this invisible interweaving of concepts in mathematics, language, logic, and metaphysics can be unravelled from any point in the system. But it is not simply a matter of the above-named fields. For, in The Problem of Genesis, the most expansive of the three studies, Derrida ends with The Crisis, Husserl’s last text, where a philosophy founded on geometry betrays its worldly genesis in a Eurocentrism that is also Derrida’s target in “The Ends of Man.” Thus, Derrida concludes by discerning in Husserl’s privileging of mathematics, and a certain purity of phenomenology as “transcendental phenome-nology,” an entire philosophy of history: a political ontology, to evoke Pierre Bourdieu’s later critique of Heidegger in The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger.

In Speech and Phenomena, his third study of Husserl, Derrida shifts his unsettling of the foundation of this architectonic from arithmetic and geometry to language, which he describes in Of Grammatology as not just “an auxiliary means in the service of science,” but the very “condition of the possibility of ideal objects” and of the “episteme” itself (27). By shifting this production of ideality from geometry (Origin 25) to language, Derrida now clearly demystifies the transcendental subject as a “psychological” and situated rather than logical and transcendental subject. It is in these first three studies, then, that Derrida approaches Foucault in analyzing the cogito of specific disciplines- arithmetic, geometry, linguistics-so as to expose these forms of knowing that are also ways of being to their unthought. Insofar as these disciplines are part of the self-grounding of philosophy as science, moreover, their history is part of the “deconstruction” of philosophy. By history, of course, Derrida means what Foucault has in mind when he describes history not as a human science but rather a form of non-knowledge that maintains with all other forms of positive knowledge “a relation that is strange, undefined, ineffaceable, and more fundamental than any relation of adjacency in a common space would be” (Order 367). This “more radical history,” which is “that of man himself” in his very “being” as “historicity,” lies behind “the history of the positivities,” and allows us to grasp “the empirico-transcendental duplica-tion” (370, 375) that is the non-identity at the heart of these positivities, and which Derrida explores through the figure of “genesis.” This duplication, in turn, requires that any positivity, even the history of such a positivity, be folded back onto a history of the conception of man that makes it possible. “To ‘deconstruct’ philosophy,”Derrida writes, is thus to think the “genealogy of philosophy’s concepts” (of which mathematics and linguistics are a part), while also determining “from a certain exterior that is unqualifiable or unnameable by philosophy-what this history has been able to dissimulate or forbid” (Positions 6). The deconstruction of mathematics in the first two Husserl studies, and of the philosophy of language in Speech and Phenomena and Of Grammatology, thus form part of a common project, which is the rethinking of the very nature of philosophy as “science” along the lines first enunciated by Schelling.

Derrida gestures towards this quasi-systematic project of his early work in suggesting, in a contemporaneous interview with Henri Ronse, that Of Grammatology is “a long essay articulated in two parts [. . .] into the middle of which one could staple Writing and Difference,” or vice versa (Positions 4). He thus configures this project in terms of a reciprocal envelopment of philosophy and literature, conceived not as a positive practice but as what Tim Clark calls a mode of “heteronomic philosophical writ-ing” that engages otherness in a way inaccessible to theoretical texts.” (109, emph. mine). Speech and Phenomena, in turn, can be “bound [. . .] as a long note” to these two works, while Derrida’s two earlier studies of Husserl can be seen as prolegomena to this third study: “the other side (recto or verso)” of Speech and Phenomena. Although in a “classical philosophical architecture” Derrida’s deconstruction of transcendental phenomenology in the Husserl studies would “come first,” the arrangement he describes is in fact more rhizomatic and involves the folding into each other of exegesis and writing, of philosophy, literature, anthropology, history, and so on. All these texts, finally, “are doubtless the interminable preface to another text” that Derrida suggests he would “one day . . . like to have the force to write,” or perhaps “the epigraph to another” that he “would never have the audacity to write” (Positions 4-5).

Thus the project begun in these seemingly academic studies of Husserl and expanded, yet not completed, in Of Grammatology forms part of a larger “transforma-tion,” that Derrida hesitates to describe as “world-wide” only because this new order of things “infringes upon the security of such significations” (Positions 7). And Speech and Phenomena, while seemingly contracting its focus to an even smaller portion of Husserl’s work than The Origin of Geometry, also lays the ground for the expansion of Derrida’s project beyond the technicalities of mathematics to the larger field of “the ‘human sciences’ of writing” and thus “the great metaphysical, scientific, technical, and economic adventure of the West” underpinned by phonetic writing (Grammatology 10). For, in The Origin of Geometry, geometry had been the discipline that discerned iterable “ideal objects of science” that we can produce “by identifying acts, as ‘the same.’” But in transferring this production of “ideal Objectivity” (Origin 25, 260) to language in Speech and Phenomena, and specifically to a pure “expression” sheltered from indication, Derrida extends his critique of “science” and the “exemplary model of scientificity-mathemat-ics” to all the “positive and classical sciences of writing” that involve the “repression” of difference, granted that this repression “up to a certain point is [. . .] even necessary to the progress of positive investigation” (Grammatology 27-28).

This transformation, or “trembling,” as Derrida calls it in “The Ends of Man” (133; cf. Grammatology 24), can also “be ascertained in other determined fields” including “mathematical and logical formalization, linguistics, ethnology, psychoanalysis, political economy, biology, the technology of information, programming etc.” (Positions 7); or choreography, athletics, and architecture (Grammatology 9). In “The Discourse on Language” two years later, Foucault seems to remember Derrida in uncharacteristically including information theory in the field of a transformed philosophy. Invoking the way philosophy “spill[s] over its own limits” in Hegel, Foucault folds into his archeology of knowledge “all those fields giving rise to questions of logic and existence,” such as “psychoanalysis,”"mathematics,”"information theory and its application to the analysis of life” (237). But Foucault’s unsettling of the architectonic of philosophy as a way of opening new possibilities of assembling knowledge had already been undertaken more systematically a year before Of Grammatology. Foucault’s Order of Things is a history and encyclopedia of various organizations of knowledge, culminating at the end of this history in an account of the modern episteme. The (de)construction of this epis-teme, which is cast into the shadows even as it is summoned into presence, constitutes, in effect, the activity of “Theory” as the traversing and unworking of the space of this episteme through the quadrilateral of doubled figures that include the cogito and the unthought, the empirical and the transcendental, the return and retreat of the origin, and the analytic of finitude. This deconstruction unfolds both at an archeological and a genealogical level. Archeologically, Foucault sees the modern episteme as profoundly troubled by its inability to construct itself within the space of what Derrida calls “geometric objectiv-ity” as a “homogeneous space, submitted to one and the same type of technique and economy” (Grammatology 288). Within the space in which it finds itself, Foucault’s modern episteme is internally eroded by its struggle to hold on to a classical geometry of knowledge. For, at the beginning of the modern period, we no longer have an ordering of knowledge “in accordance with the ideal of a perfect mathematicization,” but rather a much more potentially troubled “volume of space open in three dimen-sions” that tries to contain within its collapsing closure both philosophy and the “regional ontologies” over which philosophy tries to maintain control in Husserl’s imperium of knowledge (Order 246, emph. mine). What emerges, then, after Kant (and which is already apparent in the mixed empirical-transcendental nature of a Kantian corpus that includes anthropology and history as well as the Critiques) is a geometry overdetermined by its complexity: an “epistemological trihedron.” This tri-hedron consists of the “mathematical and physical sciences,” the “empirical sciences” that constitute the former’s “field of application” and thus form a “common plane” with them in which the empirical is always “mathematicizable,” and finally “philosophical reflection,” which struggles against its own grain to “define another common plane” with the other two types of knowledge: namely that of “the formalization of thought” (246-47). Each of these three “dimensions” demands a different type of technique and economy: the space of philosophy, for instance, is not that of mathematics. The human sciences as bastard forms of thought have no place in the ideality of this structure, but nevertheless occur “in the interstices of these branches of knowledge, or, more exactly, in the volume defined by their three dimensions” (247). They are “excluded” from the structure as an embarrassment to its logic, yet also “included” as what the structure must account for. This is to say that they form a kind of fourth column in the trihedron that deconstructs it from within. For the very oxymoron of “human” sciences is already “correlated to a sort of ‘demathematicization,’” insofar as these knowledges are addressed to man as “a living being” who “speaks,”"produces,”"grows,” and dies (349-51).

At the genealogical level of Foucault’s analysis, this trihedron emerges within a dialectic of epistemes from the Renaissance through classicism to modernity, and generates a system of disciplines systematically unworked by corresponding “counter-sciences,” at the heart of which lies the problem of the human sciences. Gesturing towards the systematicity of this project by using the spectrally Hegelian schema of triads (which, however, do not add up), Foucault arranges knowledge within the three orders of the sciences, human sciences, and countersciences. The sciences dealing with “life, labour and language,” which displace a similar triad in the classical period, are biology, economics and linguistics. As these are already “empirical” rather than “the-oretical” sciences (Foucault 55), Foucault’s triads appear as a sequence of supplementary series that expose the need for the concept of science to be divided and divided again. The contiguous human sciences to this triad of empirical sciences are psychology, sociology, and literary criticism, each of which has its corresponding counter- science: psychoanalysis in the case of psychology. Underlying this arrangement is Literature, which Foucault defines, after Maurice Blanchot, as a form that returns into itself and into “the enigma of its origin” (Order 300). Literature is not so much a counterscience (which would still contain an element of “science”) but a curvature of epistemic space that makes possible the four philosophical figures that Foucault arranges in his quadrilateral. Altogether, Foucault’s construction of this architectonic aims at an unravelling of knowledge as science, through the aporia of sciences that are “human” but claim a false positivity. These disciplines, in their mixed nature, are “dangerous intermediaries in the space of knowledge,” which simulate science but “sur-reptitiously” lead the sciences back to their “finitude.” Their duplicity is evident in the “duplication” that defines their very existence. For, not only do they “repeat” themselves in an unintended reflection on what they do, they also uneasily duplicate the sciences (349, 354).As such, they have no being in themselves: “they exist only in so far as they dwell side by side with those sciences-or rather beneath them, in the space of their projections” (366). But this is to say that they also expose the transcendentalism of science as a self-projection.

To be sure, there are differences between Derrida and Foucault. First of all, Derrida’s unworking of the system or standing together of language, logic, mathematics, politics, ethnology, etc. is meant “not to bring down the system” but to open “new possibilities of arrangement or assembling” (Points 212). Although Foucault also speaks of “unfolding [. . .] a space in which it is once more possible to think,” this affirmative thrust is less evident in The Order of Things (342), which is concerned to expose the empirical- transcendental doubling that unravels various systems of order and forms of knowledge. This divergence is symptomatically evident in the very different use each thinker makes of “the end of man.” For Derrida, the end of man and the end of the book are linked to figures of “advent” and “trembling” that convey a messianic enthusiasm, while for Foucault this “end” is attended by a certain loss, as he anticipates man’s erasure, “like a face drawn in sand at the edge of a sea” (387). Unlike Derrida’s use of this figure, which comes at the beginning of Of Grammatology, Foucault’s “end of man” comes at the end of his text and closes off the future, so that we have nowhere to go except back in time. Thus, arguably, Of Grammatology clears the ground for a number of new intersciences, including what Gregory Ulmer refers to as “applied grammatology.” But by contrast, Foucault’s revisiting of various organizations of knowledge aims to reduce them from the status of system to that of archive, so as to recover the history of ideas (the “history of systems of thought” that Foucault taught) as a counterscience. Indeed, Foucault’s outline of the two forms of this encyclopedic interdiscipline in The Archaeology can serve as a retrospective gloss on The Order. On the one hand, there is the common acceptation of the term history of ideas as a human science. This history “follows the genesis, which [. . .] gives birth to systems and oeuvres,” showing “how the great figures that are built up in this way gradually decompose [. . .] or are recomposed in a new way.” Despite a barely repressed complexity, this first form of the history of ideas remains a “discipline of beginnings and ends,” which, even though it may describe “obscure continuities and returns,” does so “in the linear form of history.” Then there is a second version not organized by the value of narrativity, which is closer to being a form of counterscience, countermemory. This history of ideas is not “the history of the sciences, but that of imperfect, ill-based knowledge [. . .] the history of alchemy rather than chemistry [. . .] of transient writing [. . .] [and] sub- literatures.” It deals with what has “never crystallized in a rigourous and individual system, [. . .] fluctuating languages [. . .] [and] shapeless works.” In effect, it realizes the potential of the more conventional history of ideas to become a “discipline of interferences” rather than a human science (136-37).

Foucault’s early fondness for the history of ideas translates into what is perhaps the most important, obvious, yet deceptive divergence between the two thinkers: namely that The Order of Things is ambitiously encyclopedic, while Derrida, apart from Of Grammatology, prefers the more nomadic form of individual essays. In Of Gram-matology Derrrida had already associated the encyclopedia with the “book” rather than the “text,” and with the “protection of theology and logocentrism” against the “aphoristic energy” of “writing” (18).More recently, he has reiterated this criticism of the encyclopedia, describing it as a “vertical [. . .] structure” that “order[s] the entire space of knowledge” and “immobilize[s]” its “borders” (Eyes 212). Not surprisingly, then, Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline does not form part of the genealogy of the Derridean university except negatively, as the “onto- and auto-encyclopedic circle of the State” (Who’s 148). For Foucault, by contrast, even “our anti-Hegelianism” is “one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us” (“Discourse” 235). The Order of Things, correspondingly, is an encyclopedia of encyclopedic organizations of knowledge, which is fascinated by triads that never quite synchronize, and with meta-organizations of knowledge that are overdetermined by their complexity. These very differences, however, make it useful to think the project of the university between Derrida and Foucault, indeed between the different segments of each thinker’s corpus. Derrida’s work has increasingly shifted from the analysis of disciplinary forms, like geometry, that have archeological effects throughout the space of knowledge, to topics like cosmopolitanism and friendship. On the one hand, this approach picks up on Foucault’s own reservations about his method in The Order of Things, when he redefines archeology to shift it from the analysis of “general forms” and the “science of a period,” to “particular configurations” that are “limited and regional,” and that disclose not positivities but differing “field[s] of interpositivity,” depending on the different planes of contiguity or comparison in which a given field is placed (Archaeology 157-59). Derrida’s hostility to the encyclopedia, in other words, speaks to a totalizing tendency of the encyclopedia that Foucault himself critiques in his earlier work. But on the other hand, the systematic implications of deconstruction are lost in this more molecular notion of non-iterable instances of inter-knowledge that exist only performatively. Disciplines and fields are, after all, what characterize the university. In this sense, Foucault’s greater fondness for Hegel, his assembling of a deconstructive encyclopedia of the sciences in outline, comes closer to what Bill Readings sees as the task of a university in ruins, which, while abandoning “disciplinary grounding,” cannot do so for a “simply amorphous interdisciplinary space in the humanities,” but must retain as “structurally essential the question of the disciplinary form” of knowledges (177). Arguably, Derrida’s dismissal of the encyclopedia ignores the more fluid concept of encyclopedics in Novalis’s Notes for a Romantic Encyclopedia that disturbs even the Hegelian encyclopedia, not to mention the continued importance of encyclopedic thought to Schelling (see Rajan, “(In)digestible,”"First Outline”). For what Novalis brings out is the way the encyclopedia functions as what Derrida calls an “autoimmune” structure that inevitably compromises itself, destroying its “own immunitary protections” (Rogues 45, 124). This is to say that it is precisely within the logic of writing that we should read Foucault’s Order of Things, which is not a book in Derrida’s sense of the word, but a “book produced” from “the indefinite series of all other books” and thus “redoubled [. . .] [and] folded upon itself” (“Fantasia” 105, 109). Its quasi-encyclopedism is precisely a way of thinking various fields of interferences within the question of the disciplinary form given to knowledges: an imperative Derrida himself sees as important (“University” 230).

But after The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault abandons the analysis of knowledge for the analysis of power and governmentality. Positioning himself as a public intellectual in his later career, as Derrida also does, Foucault conspicuously does not choose knowledge as the ground from which he speaks: this even though he continues to make the archive and the history of documents the site of his work on institutions such as the penal system or psychiatry. Instead, The Archaeology becomes the text whereby Foucault switches tracks, leaving behind its companion-piece “The Discourse on Language,” which is still concerned with the transformation of philosophy, and moving from the archaeology of knowledge to that of institutions that are at no point distilled into forms of knowledge but exist only as practices. The mode of critique that Foucault takes up, in contrast to an earlier analytic of finitude, is curiously complicit with the object of his critique, as Foucault himself concedes in describing the critique of governmentality as “a line of development of the arts of governing” (Politics 29). It is not that critique in Foucault’s hands “operates in view of the decision after or by means of a judgment,” as Derrida argues in distinguishing between deconstruction and critique (Points 212). Foucaultian critique is anything but decisive, positive. But it is nevertheless a form of self-government, a deciding and positing of a certain self.

We can best return to Foucault’s earlier project, then, in the framework of Derrida’s call for a “‘new’ Humanities” capable “of taking on the tasks of deconstruction, beginning with the deconstruction of their own history” as exemplified by Derrida’s own development of grammatology. This “new concept of the Humanities, even as it remains faithful to its tradition” and thus includes the philosophical canon, also takes in “‘legal studies,’ as well as what is called [. . .] ‘theory’ (an original articulation of literary theory, linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and so forth)” (University 203- 208), yet not in the “positive” form challenged in Of Grammatology (28). Rather, the various constituted fields are to be approached in their own historicity, such that their history, as Foucault says, must be part of a history of man that recognizes man in his “historicity” as that by which the various positivities are produced (Order 370). Thus grammatology, the clearest instance of such empirico-transcendental reflection in Derrida’s corpus, is first a positivity in the sense of a history of ideas of writing, but then it is also a more radical history of how the notion of a “science” of writing, even a “historical science,” is “born in a certain epoch of writing” that produces the concept of science coterminously with certain conceptions of man. It is for this reason that, in the end, a science of grammatology “cannot be established as such” (4, 27-28), since grammatology is not a science or even what Derrida calls an “interscience” (which would still have a positive existence), but a counterscience.

The new Humanities, then, would comprise a number of such positivities embedded in their own histories. Gathering them (if only gesturally) under this title, and placing them under the rubric of the university, Derrida continues with a project that Foucault had abandoned as impractical, perhaps because of the more inward, recursive style of The Order of Things and the obscurely transcendental form of The Archaeology of Knowledge. By contrast, the university, as Derrida says, involves a “reference to public space” and a link to “Enlightenment” that distinguishes it from “other institutions founded on the right or the duty to say everything,” such as religious confession, psychoanalysis (“University” 205), or, we might add, deconstruction in the earlier work of Foucault and Derrida. The university as Derrida sketches it in “The University Without Condition” and Du droit a la philosophie has several salient features. First, it is anchored in the new Humanities as a resistance to the instrumentalization and “end- orientation of research” and the insinuation of economic and pragmatic constraints into the habitus of knowledge (Eyes 167), such as we see in the technological concept of the human sciences that had been the focus of Foucault’s critique. It is thus significant that Derrida no longer uses the term “human sciences” used in Of Gram-matology (10), now preferring the term “new Humanities” and dissociating himself from the human sciences as “uncritical discourses” (Who’s 110). For, contrary to Wilhelm Dilthey’s desire to assert “the epistemological independence” of the human sciences when he coined the term, “the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) , ” as Hans-Georg Gadamer argues, “so obviously understand themselves from the analogy with the natural sciences that the idealistic echo [. . .] in the idea of Geist [. . .] fades into the back-ground” of a discursive formation that is as much governed by the inductive model of science as the natural sciences (5, 9).

Second, though the new Humanities is not synonymous with philosophy, philosophy is a crucial part of the configuration. To adapt what Foucault says of history, philosophy is not just one of these humanities but is throughout them, maintaining with them a “relation [. . .] more fundamental than any relation of adjacency in a common space would be” (Order 267). Or, to evoke Schelling, philosophy is both everywhere and nowhere: it “becomes objective” in particular forms of knowledge, but “does not become objective in its totality in any single one of them” (University 78-81). Thus, for Derrida, who insists on a more precise sense of institutions than Schelling, it is necessary to “claim the proper and specific unity of the discipline” of philosophy, so as not to disperse its critical force. But at the same time, philosophy must not be “confine[d] [. . .] to a class or curriculum, a type of object or logic, a fixed content or form,” as has latterly happened with the esotericization of philosophy as post-Heideggerian thought in the curriculum of Theory. Rather, Derrida opposes “whatever would prohibit philosophy from being present or insistent outside its class, in other disciplines or other departments, from opening itself up to new objects in a way that knows no limit or principle” (Eyes 170).

Hence, third, both the new Humanities and philosophy must avoid being “enclosed within the inside of the Humanities” as humanism, and must think “the irreducibility of their outside and their future” (“University” 236). A new problematic of right and the rights of man might take us into issues of the “experience of illness and health,” which would be an extension of philosophy to the faculties of law and medicine that Kant called higher faculties, but also an impingement of something outside the Humanities on the humanities (Eyes 199). And finally, and most importantly, the university focalized through this new Humanities must be “unconditional”-a term Derrida does not specifically attribute to Schelling in his discussion of the latter in “Theology of Translation,” but which is most fully developed by Schelling in On University Studies and First Outline for a System of the Philosophy of Nature. For Schelling, positive sciences “attain to objectivity within the state and in function of it,” and are “organized in so- called faculties” (University 78-79): a definition that Derrida takes up in “Theology of Translation” (Eyes 71, 73). Unconditional or absolute knowledge, by contrast, is the potential, never graspable as a positive intuition, to think outside the determinate conditions necessary for thinking to be sure, but that are always political even when they seem only cognitive.2 But, as Derrida concedes, this “university without conditions does not, in fact, exist” (“University” 204), which is why Foucault abandoned deconstruction for the more positive form of critique, which for Derrida is at odds with unconditional thought (Points 212). Yet the word unconditional also raises the spectre of the bad infinity that Derrida associates with the Romantic notion of the Idea. The Kantian idea, according to Derrida, is both too vague and too closed: it is “too futural,” in not “think[ing] the deferral of difference in terms of ‘now,’ and it is not futural enough” in already knowing “what tomorrow should be” (Negotiations 242). In returning to Foucault after Foucault, Derrida thus adopts a resolutely Foucaultian and Bourdieuvian language:

The most open question, that of destination, will intersect with the question of foundation or institution, particularly the foundation of the philosophical institution (school, discipline, profession, and so forth). [. . .] Beyond an alternative between “internal” or “exter-nal” problematics,we will question the constitution of the limits between the inside and the outside of what is called the “philosophical” text, its modes of legitimation and institution. We will call upon certain notions from the sociology of knowledge or culture, [. . .] from the politology of research. But beyond an epistemology of these knowledges, we will begin to situate their professionalization, their transformation into disciplines, the genealogy of their operative concepts (for example, “objectification,”"legitimation,” symbolic power,” and so forth). (Who’s 193-94n)

This passage comes from a description of the seminar “Right to Philosophy” that Derrida gave in 1984 at the Ecole Normale Superieure and then at the College International de Philosophie.While the book Right to Philosophy is a series of essays independent of this seminar, it is clear from this description that Derrida means the seminar and the body of thought associated with it to rival Foucault’s lectures at the College de France in the Seventies on psychiatric power, the abnormal, and other topics. These lectures and the published work issuing from them (Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality) constitute an act of institution in which Foucault proceeds from dissemination in a prestigious forum to consolidation, through publication, of his role as a public intel-lectual: a role quite different from the anonymity he had sought in The Archaeology (17). Derrida, then, attempts a rival act of institution: an instituting not of the university per se, but of the right to think deconstructively rather than in the mode of governmentality.

While Derrida’s in-decisive relation to the figure of Kant is the subject of another paper,more than anyone, it is through Kant, the civil-servant philosopher, that Derrida thinks the university inside and outside the conditions of its functioning. For Foucault, Kant’s temporizing with state power on the higher or lower status of philosophy, and the “public” or “private” role of the intellectual, is a failure to follow Enlightenment to its limit (Politics 110). But for Derrida this in-decision is a Foucaultian micropolitics in the service of a certain utopianism. For the Kantian philosopher, who is in a faculty that is at once “lower” than and outside the professional faculties (of Medicine, Theology, and Law), thereby occupies both “a circumscribed place and a non-place of panoptical ubiquity” that allows him to be “acquainted with the entire field of the other faculties” (Eyes 54-55). This paradox, which reflects the uneasiness of negotiating a space for philosophy, also cleverly deflates and sublates Schelling’s far more idealistic claim that philosophy must not be identified with a faculty, since its “true place” is “the entire place” (72). For Schelling, philosophy is everywhere; for Kant it is everywhere precisely because it is nowhere. Kant “constitutes an institutional place” for something that “remains an ideal and never takes place anywhere” (56), because this ideal (of reason, of the university) is not literal but analogical. To protect this ideal, Kant accepts the limited, circumscribed place of philosophy. But this acceptance itself is the performance of a discipline based on analogy, a representation “in the double sense of a representation by delegation and a theatrical representation” (86). The university is “analogous to society, to the social system it represents as one of its parts”; hence the “teaching body” has to be like the “social body,”"a little like an industry,” a little like a civil service (85). And Kant, as we know, rigourously deconstructed figures and syllogisms such as analogy, hypotyposis, and paralogism. This is to say that we accept the limited place that disinterested thought currently has in the university only insofar as we accept that the university is like society, indeed a certain kind of society that Hegel was to critique as “civil society” (256-57). Thus, insofar as the disciplinary conditions to which Kant submits are themselves analogical rather than true, his submission in the form of a performance opens a space from which to think the university differently: not a space in any positive sense, since Kant does no more than “represent” the university as it might be, but a non-place, a u-topos for other possibilities of assembling that would also be analogical.


1/ The English title On University Studies is a mistranslation, since Schelling, unlike Kant in The Conflict of Faculties, is not concerned with universities as state institutions, but with a broader world of knowledge including both universities and academies.

2/ Schelling uses the term “unconditioned” (Das Unbedingte) in two senses: in a philosophical sense derived from theories of substance, denoting what is outside or before “the particular sensible determinations of the eternal substance” that are the specific “branches” of knowledge; and in a political sense, marking a resistance to “the actual conditions [Bedingungen] , ” taken up by Kant, under which knowledge is taught (University Studies 43, 12, 17). The unconditioned, insofar as it ceases to be so when specified within a thing (Ding) , is a repudiation of positivism. For further elaboration of how The First Outline radicalizes the theory of unconditional or absolute knowledge in On University Studies, unworking its organic totalization and taking it in a more deconstructive direction, see my essay “First Outline of a System of Theory.”


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TILOTTAMA RAJAN works on Romanticism, philosophy, and theory. Her most recent books are Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology (Stanford UP, 2002) and Idealism Without Absolutes (SUNY P, 2004). This paper is part of her current work on encyclopedic thought and the organization of knowledge from German Idealism to deconstruction.

Copyright MOSAIC Jun 2007

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