Limited Inc is a 1988 book by Jacques Derrida, containing two essays
and an interview.
The first essay, "Signature Event Context," is about J. L. Austin's
theory of the illocutionary act outlined in his How To Do Things With
Words. The second essay, "
Limited Inc a b c...", is Derrida's
response to John Searle's "Reply to Derrida: Reiterating the
Differences," which criticizes Derrida's interpretation of Austin. The
book concludes with a letter by Derrida, written in response to
questions posed by Gerald Graff in 1988: "Afterword: Toward an Ethic
of Discussion". Searle's essay is not itself included: he denied
1 Signature Event Context
2 Dispute with
Signature Event Context
The essay has three section headings, beginning with: "Writing &
Telecommunication" on the third page, and then followed by "Parasites.
Iter, of Writing: That It Perhaps Does Not Exist", and concluding with
Derrida highlights Austin's theory of illocutionary acts in the
"Parasites..." section because he finds it in contradiction to the
definition of communication he has formulated in "Writing &
Telecommunication". There he considers all communication in terms
traditionally reserved for writing. Derrida lists three traits of
writing. First, it subsists without the subject who inscribed it.
Second, the meaning of the text is never constrained by its context.
"[T]he sign", Derrida explains, "possesses the characteristic of being
readable even if the moment of its production is irrevocably lost and
even if I do not know what its alleged author-scriptor intended to say
at the moment he wrote it". Third, this possibility of rupture from
its origin is provided by a text's elements (e.g. words) being
separated by spacing. Derrida says that these traits "are valid not
only for all orders of 'signs' and for languages in general but
moreover, beyond semio-linguistic communication, for the entire field
of what philosophy would call experience".
...anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial.
In 1983, Searle told to
The New York Review of Books
In 1988, Derrida wrote "Afterword: Toward An Ethic of Discussion", to be published with the previous essays in the collection Limited Inc. Commenting on criticisms of his work, he wrote:
I just want to raise the question of what precisely a philosopher is doing when, in a newspaper with a large circulation, he finds himself compelled to cite private and unverifiable insults of another philosopher in order to authorize himself to insult in turn and to practice what in French is called a jugement d'autorite, that is, the method and preferred practice of all dogmatism. I do not know whether the fact of citing in French suffices to guarantee the authenticity of a citation when it concerns a private opinion. I do not exclude the possibility that Foucault may have said such things, alas! That is a different question, which would have to be treated separately. But as he is dead, I will not in my turn cite the judgment which, as I have been told by those who were close to him, Foucault is supposed to have made concerning the practice of Searle in this case and on the act that consisted in making this use of an alleged citation.”
In the main text he argued that Searle avoided reading him and didn't try to understand him and even that, perhaps, he was not able to understand, and how certain practices of academic politeness or impoliteness could result in a form of brutality that he disapproved of and would like to disarm, in his fashion. Derrida also criticized Searle's work for pretending to talk about "intention" without being aware of traditional texts about the subject and without even understanding Husserl's work when talking about it. Because he ignored the tradition he rested blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions. Derrida would even argue that in a certain way he was more close to Austin, than Searle that, in fact, was more close to continental philosophers that himself tried to criticize. He would also argue about the problem he found in the constant appeal to "normality" in the analytical tradition from which Austin and Searle were only paradigmatic examples.
In the description of the structure called "normal," "normative," "central," "ideal,"this possibility must be integrated as an essential possibility. The possibility cannot be treated as though it were a simple accident-marginal or parasitic. It cannot be, and hence ought not to be, and this passage from can to ought reflects the entire difficulty. In the analysis of so-called normal cases, one neither can nor ought, in all theoretical rigor, to exclude the possibility of transgression. Not even provisionally, or out of allegedly methodological considerations. It would be a poor method, since this possibility of transgression tells us immediately and indispensably about the structure of the act said to be normal as well as about the structure of law in general.
He continued arguing how problematic was establishing the relation between "nonfiction or standard discourse" and "fiction," defined as its "parasite, “for part of the most originary essence of the latter is to allow fiction, the simulacrum, parasitism, to take place-and in so doing to "de-essentialize" itself as it were”. He would finally argue that the indispensable question would then become:
what is "nonfiction standard discourse," what must it be and what does this name evoke, once its fictionality or its fictionalization, its transgressive "parasitism," is always possible (and moreover by virtue of the very same words, the same phrases, the same grammar, etc.)?
This question is all the more indispensable since the rules, and even the statements of the rules governing the relations of "nonfiction standard discourse" and its fictional"parasites," are not things found in nature, but laws, symbolic inventions, or conventions, institutions that, in their very normality as well as in their normativity, entail something of the fictional.
^ How to do things with Words: The William James Lectures delivered at
Harvard University in 1955. Ed. J. O. Urmson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1962.
^ Derrida (1988), Editor's Foreword, in Limited Inc. page VII -
^ Jacques Derrida, "Signature Event Context," Limited Inc, trans.
Samuel Weber and Jeffrey Mehlman (Evanston, Il: Northwestern
University Press, 1988) p. 9.
^ Derrida, "Signature Event Context," p. 9
^ Louis Mackey and Searle (1984)
^ a b Derrida (1988), Afterword, in Limited Inc. page 158, footnote 12
^ Searle (1983) and (2000)
^ Derrida, Jacques. Limited, Inc..
v t e
Early The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy (1953) Introduction to Husserl's The Origin of Geometry (1962) "Cogito and the History of Madness" (1963)
1967 Of Grammatology Speech and Phenomena Writing and Difference
1968–72 Plato's Pharmacy (1968) Dissemination (1972) Margins of Philosophy (1972)
1973–8 The Archeology of the Frivolous: Reading Condillac (1973) Glas (1974) Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles (1978) The Truth in Painting (1978)
1980–8 The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (1980) The Ear of the Other (1982) Of an Apocalyptic Tone Recently Adopted in Philosophy (1983) Ulysses Gramophone (1984) Two Words for Joyce (1984) Signeponge-Signsponge (1984) Memoires for Paul de Man (1986) Of Spirit (1987) Psyche: Inventions of the Other (Vol. I, 1987) Cinders (1987) Choral Work (1988) Limited Inc. (1988)
Right to Philosophy (1990)
The Other Heading (1991)
Acts of Literature (1991)
Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money (1991)
The Gift of Death (1992)
Specters of Marx (1993)
Deconstruction Différance Phallogocentrism Phonocentrism Logocentrism Metaphysics of presence Free play
Marguerite Aucouturier Gadamer–Derrida debate Sokal affair Derrida The Re