From: Martin Rosenberg
Subject: Re: situated knowledges


As someone who is engaged in a critique of correspondence theories of all sorts (yes, I'm even cognizent of the claims by the bearded one), I sympathize with your frustration. Nothing like sloppy thinking to bring precise thinkers to the edge of despair, or to the brink of hilarity, depending on the mood.

But, we must not forget that *everything* that we do with language (assuming symbolic rather than neural network processing in our brains, has to do with the construction of relationships--even between disciplines. And noone, not even mathematicians remain insulated from that problem.

And noone is more *cognizent* of that than Derrida, who, in his most important essay on the subject, "White Mythology," states:

Like mimesis, metaphor comes back to physis, to its own truth and its presence. Nature always finds in it its own analogy, its own resemblance to itself, and finds increase there only of itself. (45)

For Derrida, always, even while theorizing about the metaphor, or what he really means here, tropes, this turn to physis involves a "provisional loss of meaning" in order to arrive at "what is proper" (45). So, from the so called certainties of mathematics, any metaphor involves *failure* in order to posit an essential connection between word and thing. Thus, metaphors/tropes serve to "menace" truth and to serve as "accomplices" for it. So, there will always be "an inevitable detour," or, "a horizon of circular reappropriation of the proper sense" (74), that involves both "repetition" and "divergence" (71): a repetition that must "wear and tear" (13), a tropical orbit that must decay, or tear off through a "divergence" (71).

Derrida associates this with "Physis," or the claim for natural law; for Derrida, that claim lie at the heart of *any* act of writing/speech. We see recent attempts a la Lakoff and Turner to reappropriate speech to "real" cognition, but for Derrida, that's nonsense: necessary but nonsense.

Bloom picks up on this by insisting that what tropes really do is to provide a psychological defense against literal meaning, which is a form of death (A Map...88 and passim).

But the real point here, of course, belongs to Michel Serres, who argues that the reason why we resort to math and physics and chaos theory (come see my talk on Prigogine, Maturana and Varela and Beckett's *Rockaby* in Atlanta next fall for some hilarious correspondizing!), is that our traditional sources of truth and value lack power in our society:

Science is onn the side of power, on the side of effectiveness; it has and will have more and more credit, more intellectual and social legitimacy, and the best positions in government; it will attract strong minds--strong in reason and ambition; it will take up space. ("Literature and the Exact Sciences")

This goes for Barthes, and Turner, and the bearded one on low temperature physics and human awareness. You could mention the work of Karl Pribram.

Course, correspondences also work. Take for example that great correspodence theory Information Theory. I don't know why the same mathematical formula for measuring entropy in a closed system, also works for measuring the amount of noise in a channel connecting messenger and receiver. It just does.

Now, a final word on geometry and hypertext. Or calculus and film in the works of Bergson and Deleuze. Or Planetary systems and tropical systems in both Derrida and Bloom.

It works, because its all rhetoric...... And thats "proper", sloppy but proper...... best......mer

Martin E. Rosenberg (atmer@asuacad)
Department of English
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302