Presence/Absence, Compensation

"So one ought to have invented 'something that would signify the incessant or the innumerable.' Inventing it, of course, in the interval. Inventing the sign for this "being-in-the-process-of," for a movement that is at once uninterrupted and broken, a continuity of rifts that would nevertheless flatten out along the surface of a homogeneous, obvious present. Our language always takes up this movement in the form of a becoming-present: to become present, a present in the process of becoming, the becoming of the present. . . a self-proclaimed traceless present (Dissemination 310)."

The term "presence" is generally used to mean "presence to itself." That is, a reader would expect to experience the presence of meaning, of an incontrovertible signified, to a sentence. Also at issue is the presence of an origin, wherein logocentric thought would brand the voice as the source of signified meaning, and writing only as its debased signifier, its lesser derivative. One might say that logocentrism is quite aware of Barthes' connotation model, where every signified has multiple signifiers. Writing poses a threat to presence; it is a signifier that debilitates certain meaning. Hence, the denotative scheme is upset, causing meaning to be obscured. Western thought endlessly tries to escape connotation and its consequence of ambiguity. Since inscribed writing is the quintessential signifier, abstracted from the intentions of its author (the sole bearer of the signified concept), meaning can be misinterpreted. For Western philosophical writing, which tries to affirm truth and certitude in its own discourse, connotation is a fallacy.

In this line of reasoning, writing implies an absence of the speaking voice. It also suggests the absence of clear and present meaning in inscribed words. However, Derrida claims that a certain degree of absence is in fact needed to produce the effects of present meaning. It is by this logic that we must redress writing through a critique of its classification as a debased signifier, and an emphasis on its compensatory nature.

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