The Theory of Epistemological Transmutation of English Language as the Global Reversal of Flow of Knowledge

Topics: Linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure, Structuralism Pages: 26 (8321 words) Published: May 16, 2009
WRITTEN BY DR MANSOUR HASHEMI
EMAIL: mansour_hashemi@hotmail.com

The Theory of Epistemological Transmutation of English Language as the Global Reversal of Flow of Knowledge

Introduction

Historical Initiation
Postmetaphysics means the initial distancing of knowledge from metaphysics, which has been the dominant ground of knowledge for centuries. It is the conclusion of metaphysics as a correction done to the understanding of understanding itself and the explication of language as a non-substantial phenomenon. Historically, it is the development and dissemination of Continental thought, and theoretically the result of Martin Heidegger’s elaborations on Continental thought as well as Ferdinand de Saussure’s ontological approach to language. Postmetaphysics started its development in English language mainly by the theoretical endeavours of Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida and J. Hillis Miller. These theoretical developments transmuted the metaphysical ground of knowledge to the linguistic ground. Hence the term postmetaphysics is applied to a historical initiation on an academic basis. This occurred in a situation in which English language never produced leading thinkers as phenomenologists or structuralists to prepare the ground of knowledge for the transmutation. This is to say that English language never prevailingly experienced ‘the epistemological slides’ of phenomenology and structuralism on a wide intellectual scale. Instead of a gradual historical change, English and on a grand scale the world, especially on an intellectual and academic level, is experiencing an unfamiliarity and a state of thrownness caused by the transmutation phenomenon in a relatively short period of time.

The Epistemological Phenomenon
There has not been written a lot on postmetaphysical epistemology[2], and it seems those who have written on this topic are still not very sure of what exactly has changed or is being changed. For example, Jürgen Habermas in ‘Themes in Postmetaphysical Thinking’ writes: ‘the situation of present-day philosophizing, too, has become obscure’.[3] Or for explaining the role of language in postmetaphysical thinking, he writes about it only too generally: ‘the shift in paradigms from philosophy of consciousness to philosophy of language’.[4]

Some theoreticians such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty and Fredric Jameson have written about this topic although the issue of transmutation itself has not been explicated and developed by a systematic study. Barthes in ‘From Work to Text’ writes that the new understanding of language (an epistemological issue) had made changes and produced a common ground for the fields of linguistics, anthropology, Marxism and psychoanalysis, and adds that this is not due to the ‘internal recasting of each of these disciplines, but rather from their encounter’ with language.[5] The term interdisciplinarity, which has become ‘a prime value in research’, is practically an ‘unease in classification’ which indicates a ‘mutation’ or ‘an epistemological slide’ rather than a ‘break’. Barthes believed that the real break had happened in the nineteenth century with Marxism and Freudianism.[6] Similarly, Foucault also writes that ‘this epistemological mutation of history is not yet complete. But it is not of recent origin either, since its first phase can no doubt be traced back to Marx’.[7] Jameson also wrote about the ‘exchange’ of historical ‘model’ to ‘rethink everything through once again in terms of linguistics’ and he decides that ‘it is certain, indeed, that such a replacement marks an absolute end and the beginning of something hitherto unprecedented’.[8] It should also be noted that pragmatist philosophers such as Rorty have somehow unwillingly confirmed the change: ‘like Heidegger and Derrida, de Man treats the end of essentialism and logocentrism as event of world-historical significance. We pragmatists treat it as merely the latest stage in a gradual and continuous...

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Last edited: 07/10/2005
[3] Jürgen Habermas, ‘Themes in Postmetaphysical Thinking’, in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, trans. by W. M. Hohengarten (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), p. 28.
[5] Roland Barthes, ‘From Work to Text’, in Image, Music, Text, trans. by Stephen Heath (Glasgow: Collins, 1977), p. 155.
[7] Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 12-13.
[8] Fredric Jameson, The Prison-House of Language: a Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1972), pp. vi-vii.
[9] Richard Rorty, ‘De Man and the American Cultural Left’ in Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers (Vol 2) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 132.
[10] Martin Esslin, 'Introduction ', in Absurd Drama (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), pp. 13-15.
[11] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York: Random House, 1936.
[13] For a detailed account see: Mansour Hashemi, ‘The Metaphysical Problem of the Concept of Intentionality in English Literary Theory: an Epistemological Analysis’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Birmingham, 2004), pp. 21-32.
[15] Jacques Derrida, ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’, in Writing and Difference, trans. by Alan Bass (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 278-80.
[16] F. de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, ed. by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, trans. by Roy Harris (London: Duckworth, 1983), p. 120.
[22] Roman Jakobson, Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning with a Preface by Claude Lévi-Strauss, trans. by J. Mepham (Hassocks: The Harvester Press, 1978), p. xv.
[27] Kirsten Malmkjær, The Linguistics Encyclopedia (London: Routledge, 2004), p. xxxiv.
[30] Jean Aitchison, Words in the Mind: an Introduction to Mental Lexicon (Third ed) (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), p. 43.
[31] W. V. Quine, ‘The Inscrutability of Reference’ in Semantics: an Interdisciplinary Reader in Philosophy, Linguistics and Psychology, ed. by D. D. Steinberg and L. A. Jakobovits (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 146.
[36] Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, trans. by P. Brault and M. Naas (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 12.
[37] Martin Heidegger, ‘The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking’, in Basic Writings (Revised and Expanded Edition), ed. by David Farrell Krell, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 439-40.
[39] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), p. 190-91.
[44] Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 120-21.
[45] Martin Heidegger, ‘Modern Sciences, Metaphysics and Mathematics’, in Basic Writings (Revised and Expanded Edition), ed. by D. F. Krell, trans. by W. B. Barton and V. Deutsch (London: Routledge, 1978), p. 276.
[46] Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, in Basic Writings (Revised and Expanded Edition), ed. by David Farrell Krell, trans. by Albert Hofstadter (London: Routledge, 1978), p. 144.
[49] Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. by J. Weinsheimer and D. G. Marshall (London: Sheed and Ward, 1989), p. 3.
[50] Jürgen Habermas, 'Philosophy and Sciences as Literature? ', in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, trans. by W. M. Hohengarten (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), p. 206.
[52] Martin Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’, in Basic Writings (Revised and Expanded Edition), ed. by David Farrel Krell, trans. by Frank A. Capuzzi & J. Glen Gray (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 254.
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