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Sandu Robert

Time in Aphorism Countertime


Key words: aphorism, countertime, time, phenomenological time, intersubjectivity Derridas article Aphorism Countertime published in Acts of Literature refers to Shaeksperean masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. Attridge describes the essay in his preface as a text which articulates certain problems that run through the entire history of Western culture. 1The essay deals first with the dichotomy of the signifier and the signified2 by analyzing the dichotomy between the names of Romeo and Juliet. Reffering to the scene that more than any other, has become a commonplace3 Derrida shows that proper names are aphorisms, which inherit certain paradoxical traits. Focussing on contretemps (defined as mishap or syncopation), that this aphorism provides, Derrida states that Romeo and Juliet is the theatre of the unseen, as the most important events take place in the penumbra (of names, of light, of self). One intriguing thing about the essay is the form in which it is written a collection of aphorisms introduced by numbers from 1 to 39. This disjunction and heterogeneity, opposes to homogeneous spatiotemporal continuum that a traditional essay tries to produce.4 The argumentation is constructed like a mathematical proof: 7 Romeo and Juliel, the heroes of contretemps in our mythology, the positive heroes. They missed each other, how they missed each other! Did they miss each other? But they also survived, both of them, survived one another, in their name, through a studied effect of contretemps: an unfortunate crossing, by chance, of temporal and aphoristic series.5 This is an example of Mathematical proof:

1 2

Attridge Derek ,Introduction to Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 414 According to Saussure the sign is an arbitrary association between a sound-image (signifier) and a corresponding concept (signified). 3 Attridge Derek ,Introduction to Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 414 4 Idem. p. 415 5 Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 417

Let a be an integer, and assume it is even. An integer being even means that it is divisible by 2, or, equivalently, that there exists an integer k such that a = 2k. By definition, there exists an integer k such that a = 2k. Hence, a2= (2k)2= 4k2. Since 4 is divisible by 2, this implies that a2 is also divisible by 2, and so it is even by definition. Also, the numbered paragraphs resembles the verses in the Bible. Derrida begins his essay by stating that aphorism6 is the name and it separates in order to define. (p. 416) In order to further elaborate on this matter, he asserts that each sentence or paragraph is marked by a spatiotemporal enclosure, which separates it from another sentence or paragraph. While each aphorism has a clear and distinct boundary, its signification proliferates wildly.Despite appearances, an aphorism never arrives by itself, it doesnt come all alone(p. 128). To say that each aphorism infects the understanding of the next - is this a contretemps, a clumsy way to say they are part of the same event? Possibly, but our impermanent lines which we useto divide the world are a mark of what is means to be human. To harness the authority to merge and divide is how we negotiate the world, a quality beholden by aphorism. By virtue of its composition, Derridas text also questions the identity of each aphorism and addresses our necessity to divide parts and wholes right at the beginning of his essay: already this could be read as a series of aphorisms.

Derrida also underlines the separation in the names of Romeo and Juliet, which are aphorisms, separated by their own nature in space and time and denying the posibility of absolute synchronization. (p. 418) Romeo cannot be Juliet and the other way around. However, the desired love is born in the very heart of this impossibility I love because the other is the other, because its time will never be mine (p. 420). The theatre, thence, becomes the theatre of the other.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary aphorism means a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment

Attridge describes the essay in his preface as a text which articulates certain problems that run through the entire history of Western culture.
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The problems of

aphorism and contretemp are not exclusive to the play; what he is describing is a general assault made by language upon something it cannot trully assail. The conflict of Romeo and Juliet, then ,,can be figured as something more fundational that which takes place between the Capulets and Montagues, or between the impetuous young and the anachronistic old; it is that which occurs between form and force. Time is forced beyond the formal grasp of language, and the aphorisms formal attempt to remain enclosed is constitutively doomed to failure by virtue of its embeddedness in the ever-open force of language. This is, as Attridge terms it, the contradictory force of naming [] as a cultural practice: in instituting and enforcing temporal and spatial homogeneity, it brings into being the possibility of the very accidents [] which it is designed to prevent. The conflict between objective time and what Derrida describes as the dates, timetables, property registers, place-names, all the codes that we cast like nets over time and space-in order to reduce or master differences 8that is, time as intersubjectively rendered- is what allows, as it were, the tragedy to function in Romeo and Juliet. We can see a parallel here: Derridas anxiety that the bad aphorism [] cuts and delimits by virtue of its sententious character9, and his desire to subvert the bad aphorism in his text on Romeo and Juliet, is shared by the phenomenologists in their large-scale discourses, all of which develop their own precise idioms. Derrida, then dissects the Balcony Scene, stating that Romeo himself bearer of the name is not a name, it is Romeo the name which he bears. Aphorism 15 of Aphorism Countertime draws our attention directly to the phenomenology10 of temporality:
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Attridge Derek ,Introduction to Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 414 Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 419. 9 Idem. p. 418 10 Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions. Phenomenology as a discipline is distinct from but related to other key disciplines in philosophy has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but it came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others.

There would not be any contretemps, nor any anachrony, if the separation between monads only disjoined interiorities. Contretemps is produced at the intersection between interior experience [] and its chronological or topographical marks, those which are said to be objective, in the world. (421)11 The phenomenological process, how we as humans open ourselves to time, is a process which is ineluctably bracketed by its historicity, which in turn orients its possible future. In order for consciousness to be of conscious of something, it requires that we are able to define thatsomething. To write of the phenomenologists understanding of time in general would be misguided. Husserl begins The Phenomenology Of Internal Time-Consciousness by quoting Augustine: If no one asks me, I know what time is; if I want to explain it to him, I don't know what time is.12 Sartre phrases this difficulty for us: The only possible method by which to study temporality is to approach it as a totality which dominates its secondary structures and which confers on them their meaning.13 Additionally, the issue of temporality is divisive within the writings of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Objective time is a meaningless succession of nows (Merleau-Pontys phrase) or instants (Sartres phrase) on which consciousness subsequently confers meaning. That is, as Merleau-Ponty writes: All our experiences, inasmuch as they are ours, arrange themselves in terms of before and after, because temporality [] is the form taken by our inner sense.14 This section of aphorisms stages the surmise that, if temporality is thematised as a feature of internal time conciousness, then it must also be inscribed in a topography, charting its worldly participation. The connections between time, the possible comunicability of meninigs, and an interiority of subjectivity, here bounded as a monad, indicate a further refference to
Phenomenological issues of intentionality, consciousness, and first-person perspective have been prominent in recent philosophy of mind. 11 Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 421
12

Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. trans. Dorian Cairns. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, p. 21 13 Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. trans. Hazel E. Barnes. London: Routledge, 2003, p.130 14 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception. trans. Donald Landes. London: Routledge, 2011, p.476 4

Husserls Cartesian Meditations. The contretemps in the title is the accident, or mishap, or chance, and, as Derek Attridge pointes out in his introduction, it is both the countertime of musical composition, and the looser common sense notion of inopportune.

A reduction of Romeo and Juliet to its constituent parts can reveal a number of ways in which time functions in the text; or to phrase this more precisely, we can illuminate how marked temporalities are inherently dysfunctional. This inherent dysfunction is articulated by Derrida: There would have been no love, the pledge would not have taken place, nor time, nor its theater, without discordance. The accidental contretemps comes to remark the essential contretemps. Which is as much as to say it is not accidental.15 The multiple conceptions of time which can be identified serves to enrich the text, to make it worthy of the critical attention it receives. We are dealing with a text which is at once a play and a script. There is, therefore, a danger of abstracting the play from what we might call its practical application. A corollary16 of this is that our understanding of intersubjectivity and time as regards Romeo and Juliet is determined by our view of the text as either static (the text-as-script in paralysis, achronological, held still for us to read and re-read) or as active (a singular chronological event, of a duration with a telos17, an experience of art vastly different to the act of textual close reading). In the latter experience of text-as-play we perceive the action and all of its themes and complexities in a linear fashion, whilst the former experience of text-as-script allows us to excavate, to read the entire action through a single morphological element of the text, or to gather together themes from otherwise dispersed textual elements. This reading of text-as-script is that which is conventionally considered the deconstructive approach. The success of Aphorism Countertime is its handling of this tremor already at work in the play. It does this by revealing the depth of Romeo and Juliets staging of the
15 16

Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992, p. 420 According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary a proposition inferred immediately from a proved proposition with little or no additional proof 17 A telos (from the Greek means "end", "purpose", or "goal") is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term "teleology" roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions.

tragedy latent in the rules of name and time, and simultaneously by questioning the very process of this revelation. By this we mean that Derridas considerations of the conflict of force and form attempt themselves to not fall into the very fault lines they are mapping. It is a writing which seeks authenticity to the force in question, to the perceptual experience of force itself.

Terms Explained Intersubjectivity

1. First, in its weakest sense intersubjectivity refers to agreement. There is intersubjectivity between people if they agree on a given set of meanings or a definition of the situation. For example, Thomas Scheff defines intersubjectivity as "the sharing of subjective states by two or more individuals."18 2. Second, and more subtly intersubjectivity refers to the comon sense shared meanings constructed by people in their interactions with each other and used as an everyday resource to interpret the meaning of elements of social and cultural life. If people share common sense, then they share a definition of the situation. 3. Third, the term has been used to refer to shared (or partially shared) divergences of meaning. Self-presentation, lying, practical jokes, and social emotions, for example, all entail not a shared definition of the situation, but partially shared divergences of meaning. Someone who is telling a lie is engaged in an intersubjective act because they are working with two different definitions of the situation. Lying is thus genuinely intersubjective (in the sense of operating between two subjective definitions of reality). Intersubjectivity emphasizes that shared cognition and consensus is essential in the shaping of our ideas and relations. Language, quintessentially, is viewed as communal rather than private Therefore, it is problematic to view the individual as partaking in a private world, one which has a meaning defined apart from any other subjects. But in our shared divergence from a commonly understood experience, these private worlds of semi-solipsism naturally emerge. Intersubjectivity can also be understood as the process of psychological energy moving between two or more subjects. In a room where someone is lying on their deathbed, for example, the room can appear to be enveloped in a shroud of gloom for other people interacting with the dying person. The psychological weight of one subject comes to bear on the minds of others depending on how they react to it, thereby creating an intersubjective experience that, without multiple consciousnesses interacting with each other, would be otherwise strictly solitary. love is a prime example of intersubjectivity that implies a shared feeling of care and affection, among others.19

18 19

Scheff, Thomas Goffman Unbound!: A New Paradigm for Social Science (The Sociological Imagination) , Paradigm Publishers, 2006.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersubjectivity

Works Cited

Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992 Attridge Derek ,Introduction to Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge,Routledge, London, 1992 Merriam-Webster dictionary
Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. trans. Dorian Cairns. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999 Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. trans. Hazel E. Barnes. London: Routledge, 2003 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception. trans. Donald Landes. London: Routledge, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org