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  Philologica 2 (1995)  
   
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Alexander PIATIGORSKY

BRIEF NOTES ON THE PHILOSOPHICAL IN ITS RELATION TO THE PHILOLOGICAL

 
 
 


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1. It is quite timely now for a philosopher to think of philology. While the philosophy of the first half of the twentieth century was (and still remains) mainly linguistic, the philosophy of the second half of the century has become (and will continue to be for some time) predominantly philological. The difference between the two is not only in the intention and the object, but first and foremost in the self-awareness by a philosopher of his own work. For a linguistic philosopher, the language is definite and defined (and he knows this); described or at least describable for every given situation of investigation; known or knowable as far as its structure and the system of its description; determined in terms of its internal rules. The text a philological philosopher deals with (though more often than not he does not know this) is indefinite by definition, only partly describable, variously interpretable and re-interpretable, and internally indeterminable. Let us remember that from the point of view of a linguist, text is language, while from the point of view of a philologist, language is text. All their difference notwithstanding, Wittgenstein and Ayer are typical linguistic philosophers, while Derrida and Lacan are philological ones.

Far more interesting is the difference in self-awareness. The philological intention always leads a philosopher towards a historical self-definition. In this connection it is amusing to note that the prefix “post-”, in expressions such as “post-structuralism” and “postmodernism”, refers in the first case to the linguistics of the middle of the twentieth century and in the second, to the art of the beginning of the twentieth century. (Well, a philosopher becomes “philological” when he cannot find the object for his philosophizing, and does not understand, poor fellow, that philosophy proper has no object of its own. )

Usually such a philosopher places himself at the end of history, or a little further. As for a linguistic philosopher, he tends to exclude himself, as a philosopher, from history, remaining at the same time a “historical man” as a private person. (He cannot negate history because he does not deal with it. ) But there remains one other very important difference. Language cannot tell a philosopher more than there is in it (i. e. in its description). A text need not say anything at all to a philological philosopher, for it is he, himself, who will speak for a text as well as for a painting, a sculpture, or any other thing.

2. However, let us return to philology. A philological philosopher absolutizes the sound and banal philological presupposition “text is all there is” into “all there is is text”. In doing so he effectively “de-historicizes” the text, and thereby “historicizes” himself, particularly when he places himself after the end of history. And of course, he cannot (or does not want to) reflect on himself as “already” (always-“already”) historical because he has always been included in the text as in “the historical”. Strictly speaking, philology has no need of more (new) texts, for it is quite able to add itself, ad infinitum, to the texts already in existence and available, being a discipline oriented towards objects historical par excellence: texts. A philological philosopher, however, is always in want of new texts, for, being reflectively under-developed (if he were not, he would never have become a philological philosopher), he sees himself as the newest (and usually the latest) text.

It is here that we have to turn to an extremely interesting feature localized ethnographically within the confines of the European-Mediterranean-Near-Eastern cultural region: a very stable tendency of its texts to be not only individualized but also strongly personalized. A text always tends towards being somebody’s, not only in the sense of formal “text — author” attribution, but, far more importantly, in the sense that philologically speaking, the author is part of the text (and not only of our knowledge of this text), a necessary dimension of “objective textness”, an inseparable aspect of the thing called “this text”.

This tendency to textual personalization has had two significant historical consequences. The first is that, at the beginning spontaneously and thereafter with full awareness, texts became divided into two categories: “with an author” and “without an author”. The second is that each separate individual text became subject to an “internal classification”: into that which is intrinsically connected with an author qua unique, and that which can be read as “non-individual”, “general”, “spontaneous”, “non- or unconscious” etc. Although historically speaking, the influence of philosophy on philology seems to have been secondary, phenomenologically speaking, it was philosophy which formulated a method of referring to a text as something “non-philosophical”. In doing this it prepared the ground for the “purely” philological approach to texts.

However, “pure” philology which still believed that it dealt with texts only (and not even with all texts) did not notice that, in the first place, it began to change all texts into “its own” texts, and in the second, to create such texts which were intentionally both products and objects of philological activity at the same time. Due to this universalistic tendency a philological text begins to “duplicate” the text under its investigation. An investigation of a novel becomes a re-creation of both the author and protagonists from the text of a novel. An investigation of a novel becomes a kind of “novel of a novel”.

3. As a universal science of text philology is opposed to the novel as a universal text and to philosophy as thinking on the universal object (i. e. thinking which may think on every object). It goes without saying that each and every “universality” here is secondary in relation to thinking which is primary in relation to its object. Then the novel will be seen as the “universal text”, philology as the “universal text about text”, and philosophy (real, not philological) as the “universal text about thinking”. The latter is particularly relevant, for philosophy is text only in terms of the condition (or material) of its fixation (or expression). In distinction from both philology and philological philosophy the object of philosophy is always non-textual. Philosophy thinks about thinking as “non-text”, even if that thinking is already fixed in a text. Philosophy’s object, in this connection, is “non-text” in a text.

4. For philology, concrete texts are its own object. For philological philosophy, the world and every thinkable object regarded as text are its own object. Philosophy proper has no object of its own, for its “object”, thinking, can have all or nothing as its object.

 


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