On my use of the term ‘hauntology’

Kevin has a post up in response to my latest post, where he says:

“I have some difficulty with the prevalence of the idea of “hautology” on the internet thesedays, as the word seems to operate as something of meme, without coherent conceptual content (no determinative defintion, with all kinds of phenomena being grouped under its heading). And perhaps the word “ghost” can be seen as symbiont to it. And I can’t see where the idea as it is loosely used is much improved from Benjamin’s concept of the Angel of History…”

The nod to Benjamin is appreciated, as Part II of my “Bones of Ghosts” posts is actually about Benjamin, his “Berlin Chronicle” specifically, which is another piece in the puzzle of how I came to Spectral Realism as I see it today. Benjamin is someone who I have not read systematically, but in bits and pieces, but have always enjoyed as he is a beautiful writer.

On my use of the term “hauntology” however, I have to say that I was actually surprised to see its prevalence in the tubes. I have taken the term directly from my reading of Derrida. That is, I see it much like Graham Harman’s reading of Heidegger; where he found a “lost road,” a potential path in Heidegger’s writing that had been overlooked and in some cases directly covered over, I am attempting to make a similar move with Derrida. When Derrida says that the situation of the “spectre” poses a problem to metaphysics of presence, I think he’s misreading the situation. The spectre is not the exception to the rule (it is not a “problem” to be solved), but is rather to be seen as the prime example of metaphysics: it is a (non)being, pure and simple. There is no “spectral dilemma” in the true sense of the term, where we must categorize it as either a being or a non-being, as it is both and neither. Just as Graham extends the example of tool-beings to all objects, reading the hammer analysis into the experience of all objects and the experience that those objects must have with each other, I read the Derridean problem of the spectre as a quasi-being (a holy spirit) into all beings.

In this way, I do not use the term “hauntology” simply in reference to a philosophy of history (as it is mostly known) or in terms of musical genre, but as I think Derrida intended it: Hauntology is true metaphysics in the face of the dichotomy enforced by Ontology proper. Hauntology, as I read it, takes the spectral situation seriously, and as I am attempting to further it, sees that the spectre as viewed by Derrida isn’t exclusive to denominated or delineated “spectres” but is rather the truth of all (non)beings, or what I call “ghosts.”

More on this soon, I hope.



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6 responses to “On my use of the term ‘hauntology’

  1. kvond

    Nice post. I’m glad to hear that you are as surprised by the memish spread of the word.

    The problem with your position is, at least from my point of view, if one stops playing the game of a metaphysics of “presence” whatever happens to the required “hautological”? Because Derrrida comes out of the Descartes, Husserl, Heidegger Idealist line, the hautology, even if you have reclaimed it, still seems symptomatic of that line alone. Leave the line, stop trying to speak of presence and absence as an essential binary of terms, and lose the ghost.

    This is the very same problem I have with Graham Harman’s theory. Yes, if you swallow the Idealist framing of the question, and fall in love with Husserlian and Heideggerian object, this is an interesting thing to do to them. But the very framework in my mind is questionable. One does not, or should not start with Husserl and Heidegger.

    In what way is your personal sense of hautology not simply a “Hauntology for Derridians”?

  2. It’s not a “hauntology for Derridians” because I see the spectre as a clear example of true metaphysics. Maybe I’m not seeing what you’re really asking, but I’m not following the Heideggarian line that the old metaphysics are dead or even the Kantian line that we can only talk about that which is in the scope of the Subject. Derrida takes the spectre as a problem to be dealt with by humans, and it seems that only humans leave traces through language and thus only humans can be spectres. What I am saying is that rather than looking at the spectral dilemma strictly through the view of an anthro-ontology (as both Heidegger and Derrida do) then we realize that the spectre is actually the object, that which is never present or absent but continually striving for both (and thus achieving neither). The situation is that of all objects, all entities, all (non)beings. I am extending something which Derrida seemingly took as a problem for humans and saying it is the actual situation of all entities. No problem at all.

    As for giving up the “ghost,” I find it a useful term to distinguish my own position from things such as Object Oriented Philosophy, or traditional metaphysics of substance. You have to remember that what is key for me is not really the ghost (which is simply trapped in the middle of my hauntology), but the duel of death drives. This is why ultimately, I feel I’m a vitalist (albeit an odd vitalist since I ultimately emphasize two forms of impossible death rather than ‘Life’ as it is ordinarily understood).

  3. kvond

    I will not tell you you are wrong, but when you say “The spectre is not the exception to the rule (it is not a “problem” to be solved), but is rather to be seen as the prime example of metaphysics: it is a (non)being, pure and simple.” to my ear you are still within a metaphysics of Presence, and thus captive of an essential binary, a binary that flows from a fundamental optical metaphor of being.

    I appreciate though your clarification of your position, and I’m sure many of your other readers will as well.

    The best.

  4. kvond

    p.s. I hope that it is clear from my post that I really enjoyed your linking of the idea to the architecture in question. Excellent.

  5. mariborchan

    Michael, are you by any chance Zorio? I might be mistaken, but I think I recognize you from the picture.

  6. “Michael, are you by any chance Zorio?”

    That’s me, thanks for finding your way to my new internet home!

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