Derrida, Robot vs Manual

Here is a paragraph from near the beginning of De la Grammatologie, translated by Google:

Whatever one thinks under this heading, the problem of language has probably never been a problem among others. But never as much as today has he invaded as such the world horizon of the most diverse researches and discourses the most heterogeneous in their intention, their method, their ideology. The very devaluation of the word “language,” all that, in the credit given to it, denounces the cowardice of the vocabulary, the temptation to seduce at little cost, passive abandonment in fashion, -guard, that is to say, ignorance, all this testifies. This inflation of the sign “language” is the inflation of the sign itself, absolute inflation, inflation itself. Yet, by a face or a shadow of herself, she again beckons: this crisis is also a symptom. It indicates, in spite of itself, that a historico-metaphysical period must finally determine as a language the totality of its problematic horizon. It owes it not only because everything that desire had sought to wrest from the play of language is taken up again, but also because, at the same time, language itself is threatened in its life, helpless, disoriented To have no limits, to return to its own finitude at the very moment when its limits seem to be effaced, at the very moment when it ceases to be reassured upon itself, contained and bordered by the infinite signified which seemed to exceed it.

And here it is translated by scholar and philosopher Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak:

However the topic is considered, the problem of language has never been simply one problem among others. But never as much as at present has it invaded, as such, the global horizon of the most diverse researches and the most heterogeneous discourses, diverse and heterogeneous in their intention, method, and ideology. The devaluation of the word “language” itself, and how, in the very hold it has upon us, it betrays a loose vocabulary, the temptation of a cheap seduction, the passive yielding to fashion, the consciousness of the avant-garde, in other words—ignorance—are evidences of this effect. This inflation of the sign “language” is the inflation of the sign itself, absolute inflation, inflation itself. Yet, by one of its aspects or shadows, it is itself still a sign: this crisis is also a symptom. It indicates, as if in spite of itself, that a historico-metaphysical epoch must finally determine as language the totality of its problematic horizon. It must do so not only because all that desire had wished to wrest from the play of language finds itself recaptured within that play but also because, for the same reason, language itself is menaced in its very life, helpless, adrift in the threat of limitlessness, brought back to its own finitude at the very moment when its limits seem to disappear, when it ceases to be self-assured, contained, and guaranteed by the infinite signified which seemed to exceed it.

If it were simply nonsense, cooked up by a con man, signifying nothing, there ought to be no difference in the comprehensibility of these two paragraphs, shouldn’t there? I could, jokingly, pull together meaning from the machine translation, assemble some ideas from it’s bad translation, and perhaps wax poetic on some combination of words that would not have arose from an intentional mind… But why bother, unless I found it fun?

Nazi Punching

Let’s check with some ethical systems to see how this plays out…

Aristotle: It is a realization of a person’s true nature to punch Nazis, and punching them brings happiness and contentment. This is the right thing to do, at the right time, to the right person, to the proper extent, in the correct fashion, and for the right reason.

Kant: It would be a better world if everyone punched Nazis. If it were made universal that everyone punched Nazis, this would be perfectly acceptable to me.

Mozi: Punching Nazis directly contributes to the basic good and harmonious needs of the State. A Nazis pointless and a threat to social stability; they should be resisted and driven out.

Utilitarianism: The increase in pleasure gained from punching a Nazi, and the pleasure derived from seeing a Nazi get punched, and the consequent alleviation of suffering that having said Nazi injured and thus removed from Nazi activities, scaring off potential Nazi recruits, limiting public Nazi activities, and otherwise making Naziism unacceptable, outweighs the pain felt by the individual Nazi being punched, and the hurt feelings of the Nazis viewing the act, because there just aren’t that many of them.

Pragmatism: He’s a damn Nazi. Of course you should punch him.

Confucianism: The role of the Nazi in society is to be the abused enemy against which good people define themselves against. It is as virtuous to punch a Nazi as it is for a son to show fealty and respect to his father, a mother love to her children, or a King to give proper orders to his ministers.

Rawls: Under the veil of ignorance, knowing no details about the puncher or the Nazi, or the circumstances under which the Nazi was punched, their places in society, their class positions or social statuses, nor their fortunes in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, their intelligence, strength, and the like, and even assuming that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities, it is still ethical to punch the Nazi. Even were I the Nazi, I would wish to be punched, once I realized what I was.

Hedonism: Punching Nazis feels good, and minimizes the pain of those oppressed by Nazis. Proceed. Perhaps wear boxing gloves weighed with quarters or fishing weights, so you don’t injure your knuckles, and don’t need to exert so much effort.

Moore: Punching Nazis produces the most good, regardless of whatever naturalistic fallacy people may ascribe about the innate nature of Nazi punching. The consequences of Nazi punching are good, therefore it is a moral action, and it is also pleasing from an aesthetic standpoint, so go right ahead.

Foucault: Ethical conduct consists of the actions performed and capacities exercised intentionally by a subject for the purpose of engaging in morally approved conduct. A moral obligation is an imperative of a moral code that either requires or forbids a specific kind of conduct, whereas an ethical obligation is a prescription for conduct that is a necessary condition for producing morally approved conduct. The moral valorization of conduct might be, as it was with the ancients, weighted toward the satisfaction of ethical obligations, or, as it is in modernity, weighted toward the satisfaction of the moral obligations that comprise a moral code. Naziism, being universally condemned in the Western world, and forming an “Other” which has been designated as “fair game” in the power relationship of Master to Slave, and, unlike with race or sexuality or gender, being a self-chosen Otherization chosen due to a desire for victimization and an understanding that, by holding one’s self up to an impossible goal of racial purity and Aryan supremacy, one is by default designating oneself as impure and unworthy in one’s own eyes. One turns oneself into the imaginary enemy against which goodness is set (“The Nazi is that which is unethical, amoral, that which our fathers and grandfathers fought so that we might be free”). One reveals one’s own self-loathing. “Parrēsia,” Foucault says, “is the free courage by which one binds oneself in the act of telling the truth. Or again, parrhesia is the ethics of truth-telling as an action which is risky and free” (The Government of Self and Others, p. 66). The language that Foucault uses to describe parrhesiastic freedom throughout this lecture is incredibly suggestive of its source: it is the language of Kantian self-legislation. For Kant, autonomy does not consist in giving oneself the moral law, since the moral law is a necessity of the rational will; rather, autonomy consists in binding oneself to the law by freely conforming one’s conduct to it. By designating oneself as impure and worthless, akin to the Indian “untouchables”, one freely invites the punching that one desires. And thus, one must punch the Nazi. Society as currently constructed will not allow one to do otherwise.

Derrida: Let us examine the word “Nazi”. “Not See”, something unseen, hidden, placed away from sight, invisible. By its very nature, a contemptuous word, something not to be revealed in public. A hidden shame that, even in its native Germany cannot be displayed. None of their symbols, none of their marches, nothing outside of the historic context in which is first occurred. The law demands that it is an object of the past. But let us look at it further. “Nationalsozialist”, a compound that was too much to speak aloud, that demanded contraction to birth itself into a party, that contained that which they fought against, the very socialism they claimed to despise when they fought the Russians. So the word must be hidden, it must be buried, it must be concealed, made unseen, a relic of a past which never existed, a false secret history. They are haunted by the very socialism they claim to oppose. And this very “hauntology” that I spoke of in the Spectre of Marx epitomizes the new “Ironic Nazi” that exists in the non-space of the internet. They are Nazis only to the extent that they are not nazis: they simply believe in the extermination of the Jews and non-white races, but, if pressed, admit that they are simply doing it to get a rise out of you, but no, really, they do with the Jews to be destroyed. A denial of a denial of a denial. A non-non-non-existence. Post-post-irony. Their atemporal naziism is located precisely in its hidden non-existence. And so, the only conclusion is to fill in the void that they have left in their non-Naziism with a very concrete French resistance, with an “ironic” punch in the face.