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http://www.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/text-only/issue.197/plotnitsky.

197

"But It Is Above All Not True": Derrida, Relativity, and the "Science Wars"
by Arkady Plotnitsky 1997
Und darum: och die !hysik" Und h#her noch das$ was uns %u ihr %wingt$--unsre &edlichkeit" --'iet%sche (he )insteinian constant is not a constant$ is not a center. *t is the very concept o+ varia,ility--it is$ +inally$ the concept o+ the game -.eu/. *n other words$ it is not the concept o+ something--o+ a center starting +rom which an o,server could master the +ield--,ut the very concept o+ the game which$ a+ter all$ * was trying to ela,orate.1 1. (his statement ,y 0ac1ues 2errida has ,een endlessly circulated in recent discussions around the so-called 34cience 5ars$3 in the wake o+ !aul &. 6ross and 'orman 7evitt8s igher 4uperstition$ and then 9lan 4okal8s 3hoax article$3 ,oth o+ which comment on it.: (his circulation$ * shall argue here$ is a symptom o+ a ,roader pro,lem a++ecting the current cultural landscape and shaping the opinions o+ a signi+icant portion o+ the scienti+ic community. 9rguments analogous to the one to ,e o++ered here concerning 2errida8s work can ,e made +or other +igures prominent in recent de,ates$ such as 6illes 2eleu%e$ 0ean-;ran<ois 7yotard$ and =ichel 4erres. =y choice o+ 2errida is due mainly to the extraordinary prominence o+ the statement cited a,ove and o+ his work or rather name in general in these discussions. )ven given 2errida8s status as an icon o+ intellectual controversy on the 9nglo-9merican cultural scene$ it is remarka,le that out o+ thousands o+ pages o+ 2errida8s pu,lished works$ a single extemporaneous remark on relativity made in 19>> ?,e+ore 2errida was 3the 2errida3 and$ in a certain sense$ even ,e+ore 3deconstruction3@ in response to a 1uestion ,y another ;rench philosopher$ 0ean yppolite$ is made to stand +or nearly all o+ deconstructive or even postmodernist ?not a term easily$ i+ at all$ applica,le to 2errida@ treatments o+ science. 2errida has commented more extensively and in more grounded ways on mathematics and science$ and on the philosophical grounding o+ ,oth.A e also makes use o+ mathematical and scienti+ic theories$ concepts$ metaphors$ and so +orth ?most +amously$ 6#del8s concept o+ undecida,ility@ in his work. *n addition$ his work is +undamentally linked to the 1uestion o+ technology via the 1uestion o+ writing$ which de+ines his work throughout. Both in his actual claims concerning mathematics and science he re+ers to and in re+lecting on the relationships ,etween his work and mathematics and science$ 2errida himsel+ is cautious and

circumspect$ and o++ers a num,er o+ disclaimers. e emphasi%es instead the centrality o+ his engagement with philosophical and literary texts +or his work.C Dne might argue that mathematics and science play a more signi+icant role in his work than 2errida is willing to claim$ or perhaps than he perceives. e certainly acknowledges the possi,ility and indeed unavoida,ility o+ intersections ,etween the pro,lematics o+ his own work and mathematics and science$ and even says that 3science is a,solutely indispensa,le +or deconstruction.3E 'either 2errida8s more su,stantive discussions o+ mathematics and science$ however$ nor his caution in this respect$ are considered ,y his recent critics in the scienti+ic community. (hese critics instead appear to ,ase their views o+ 2errida8s ideas$ and those o+ other +igures .ust mentioned$ on indiscriminately extracted$ isolated re+erences to science or on snippets o+ his texts$ without placing such statements in the context o+ his work. :. (he pro,lems at issue may$ then$ ,e seen as pro,lems o+ reading. 9t stake here are$ +irst o+ all$ the most elementary and the most traditional norms o+ reading. 4uch norms would ,e routinely applied ,y scientists in reading scienti+ic texts ,ut are massively disregarded ,y most scientists who commented on 2errida and other authors mentioned a,ove.> * shall$ there+ore$ consider the circumstances$ contexts$ and meanings o+ 2errida8s remark on relativity more care+ully than has ,een done previously$ although more recently some among these circumstances and contexts have ,een pointed out and partly ?re@considered$ including ,y some scientists. 4econdly$ and more signi+icantly$ at stake is the 1uestion o+ reading non-scienti+ic texts$ such as 2errida8s$ when these texts engage or relate to science ?or mathematics@$ especially when they re+lect +undamental conceptual con.unctions o+ scienti+ic and nonscienti+ic +ields. 9ccordingly$ * shall suggest a reading o+ 2errida8s statement on relativity that might help to develop more ,alanced and productive +orms o+ interaction ,etween science and the work o+ 2errida and other authors discussed in recent de,ates. * would like$ however$ to ,egin elsewhere and to return to 2errida8s statement via two incursions--exploratory surgeries$ as it were--into recent responses to this work on the part o+ the scienti+ic community. Fharm and arm

A. * ,egin with comments on a di++erent statement ,y 2errida made in 199A ,y 9rthur 5ightman$ a ,rilliant theoretical physicist$ in his 3post-,an1uet3 talk at a con+erence at the Dak &idge 'ational 7a,oratory. e said: 5hat * o++er this evening is a truly revolutionary interdisciplinary proposal. 5hat * really mean is that it isn8t any cra%ier than what is served up in 5ashington these days. =y proposal is an application o+ a method o+ modern literary criticism to high energy physics.

(o appreciate what * am a,out to descri,e$ you have to know a little something a,out modern literary criticism. (he +irst ,asic +act is that$ .ust as in women8s +ashions$ the +ads in )nglish language literary criticism originate in !aris. (he second ,asic +act is that a very ,ig +ad$ called deconstruction$ originated there a,out AG years ago and its chie+ is a man named 0ac1ues 2errida. Hou should not con+use him with another di++erent 2errida a physicist who works in dynamical systems. (he third ,asic +act is that deconstructivists are sel+ proclaimed revolutionaries$ iconoclasts$ and li,erators$ who undermine$ su,vert$ expose$ undo$ transgress$ and demysti+y traditional ideas$ traditional logic$ authoritative readings$ illusions o+ o,.ectivity etc. (he +ourth ,asic +act is that the style in which 2errida chooses to carry out these operations is deli,erately paradoxical. ere is an exemplary piece o+ 2errida8s prose: 3*t is thus simply -sic/ +alse to say that =allarmI is a !latorist -sic/ or a egelian. But it is a,ove all not true. 9nd vice verse.3 =ay,e you didn8t 1uite +ollow that so * will read it again. ... 4o try it this way: 34enator$ it is simply +alse to say that +unding the 44F -the superconducting supercollider/ will inter+ere with support +or research on high temperature superconductivity. But it is a,ove all not true. 9nd vice versa.3 'ow you8ve got it. (he +i+th ,asic +act is the great simpli+ication deconstruction has ,rought to literature$ ,y a,olishing the author. Hou thought that authors wrote ,ooks$ poems and playsJ 5rong--literature is what the reader reads into the text. 9+ter all this preparation$ * shall state my idea in a +ew words: * propose that we apply this power+ul literary method to the superconducting supercollider. 5hat 2errida did to literature we can do to the 44F: deconstruct it. * propose that we ,egin with a typically ,old deconstructive stroke: a,olishing the state o+ (exas. (o the inevita,le 1uestion: 5hat are we going to do with that hole in the ground near 5axahatchieJ (he answer will then ,e clear: 5hat hole in the groundJ7 *t is tempting to argue that there is more charm than harm$ in these remarks$ given their tone and context$ and the signi+icance o+ such circumstances is indeed signi+icant +or my overall argument here. 9nd yet$ even i+ these remarks were made humorously$ rather than critically$ and without pro+essing any knowledge o+ or making a serious .udgement upon 2errida and deconstruction ?and * am willing to give 5ightman the ,ene+it o+ the dou,t@$ 5ightman8s charm is$ * shall

argue$ not without harm. 9long with others ?much more harm+ul ones@$ his remarks are also symptomatic o+ the pro,lem-- the pro,lem o+ reading--that is my main concern here. *n order to argue this case * shall examine 2errida8s statement ?as@ cited ,y 5ightman. * leave aside an inconse1uential typo--!latorist instead o+ !latonist. (here is another error$ however$ a more conse1uential one$ and then still another ?not a typo@$ the most conse1uential one. * would now like to compare the text as cited ,y 5ightman with the original ;rench and the )nglish translation o+ it ?,y Bar,ara 0ohnson@: !ar rapport l8idIalisme platonicien and hegelien$ le dIplacement 1ue nous nommons ici par convention 3mallarmIen3$ est plus su,til et patient$ discret et e++icient. F8est un simulacre de platonisme ou de hegelianisme 1ui n8est sIparI de ce 1u8il simule 1ue par un voile peine percepti,le$ dont on peut tout aussi ,ien dire 1u8il passe dI.K-inaper<u--entre le platonisme et lui-mLme$ entre le hegelianisme et lui-mLme. )ntre le texte de =allarmI et lui-mLme. *l n8est donc pas simplement +aux de dire 1ue =allarmI est platonicien ou hegelien. =ais ce n8est surtout pas vrai. )t rIcipro1uement. 'ous intIressent moins ici ces propositions de +orme philosophi1ue 1ue le mode de leur rIinscription dans la texte de =imi1ue. ?*n comparison with !latonic or egelian *dealism$ the displacement we are here +or the sake o+ convenience calling 3=allarmIan3 is more su,tle and patient$ more discrete and e++icient. *t is a simulacrum o+ !latonism or egelianism$ which is separated +rom what it simulates only ,y a ,arely percepti,le veil$ a,out which one can .ust as well say that it already runs--unnoticed--,etween !latonism and itsel+$ ,etween egelianism and itsel+. Between =allarmI8s text and itsel+. *t is thus not simply +alse to say that =allarmI is a !latonist or a egelian. But it is a,ove all not true. 9nd vice versa. 5hat interests us here is less these propositions o+ a philosophical type than the mode o+ their inscription in the text o+ =imi1ue -=allarmI8s work under discussion/.@M 5ightman changes 2errida8s negative sentence into a positive one$ since 2errida8s statement is$ 3*t is thus not simply +alse to say that =allarmI is a !latonist or egelian. But it is a,ove all not true.3 * shall comment on 39nd vice versa3 presently. *t is clear$ however$ that 2errida8s +ormulation ,ecomes something 1uite di++erent$ once cited accurately. D,viously$ one also needs an extension o+ the text in order to understand this statement$ as 2errida8s 3thus3 indicates. 2errida8s writing here is entirely lucid$ although it may re1uire a slow reading--which may well

,e the de+inition o+ philosophy. (he )nglish translation incorrectly$ and unnecessarily$ renders 2errida8s 3)t rIcipro1uement3 as 39nd vice versa$3 rather than as 39nd reciprocally.3 (he paragraph ,reak is even more crucial$ as must ,e o,vious i+ one looks at the passage$ either in ;rench or in )nglish. *t is$ however$ ignored ,y 5ightman and ,y 0ohn )llis in 9gainst 2econstruction$ +rom which ?rather than +rom 2errida8s 2issemination@ 5ightman 1uotes or mis1uotes$ since )llis does not omit the negative. *n spite o+ )llis8s 3+aith+ul3 reproduction$ another mis1uotation$ more su,tle ,ut more signi+icant$ remains in )llis8s ,ook as well$ and is trans+erred to 5ightman8s citation. )llis cites this +ormulation only as part o+ 0ohnson8s commentary on certain o+ 2errida8s ideas and practices$ which this passage ?supposedly@ illustrates.9 Un+ortunately$ contrary to )llis8s assertion--30ohnson is certainly a,stracting +rom 2errida8s writings in a way that does not distort them3 ?9gainst 2econstruction$ >@--0ohnson8s ela,oration also disregards 2errida8s paragraph ,reak and$ as a result$ misconstrues the passage as well$ al,eit with the ,est intentions. 4he reads it as an example o+ 2errida8s 3practice3 o+ philosophical undecida,ility. (his 3practice3 is sometimes used ,y 2errida$ including$ at certain points$ in 2issemination. *n general$ however$ it has ,een over-attri,uted to him$ especially at certain ?earlier@ stages o+ the reception o+ his work in the United 4tates$ to which period 0ohnson8s article ,elongs. er reading may also have ,een the source o+ her ?mis@translation o+ 2errida8s 3)t rIcipro1uement3 as 39nd vice versa.3 (he concept itsel+ ?analogous ,ut not identical to 6#del8s undecida,ility@ does play a prominent role in 2errida8s work$ speci+ically in his reading o+ =allarmI. (here is$ however$ nothing undecida,le in 2errida8s propositions here concerning =allarmI8s relationships to egelianism or !latonism. (hese have decida,le$ determined meanings$ and 2errida8s ela,oration itsel+ is accessi,le$ even i+ one does not have extensive knowledge o+ his work. C. =ost crucially$ the .uncture esta,lished ,y 39nd reciprocally3 would read more or less as +ollows. =allarmI8s text may look like an instance o+ !latonic or egelian idealism$ ,ut it is not. *t has ,oth su,tle proximities to and su,tle di++erences +rom idealism. 9s such$ it also suggests certain complexities within !latonism and egelianism themselves$ especially as concerns reading !lato8s and egel8s texts ,y these two respective traditions. (here+ore$ 3it is not simply +alse to say that =allarmI is a !latonist or a egelian.3 (hat is$ it is not enough to make this point alone--much more is at stake$ including possi,ly ma.or rereadings o+ !lato and egel. owever$ and indeed 3a,ove all$3 such a statement ?a statement that would identi+y his text with either !latonism or egelianism@ would not ,e true. (here is no undecida,ility to 2errida8s assertion. (his argument is rein+orced ,y a long +ootnote$ proceeding via yppolite8s reading o+ =allarmI. 2errida8s 3and reciprocally3 connects this whole ela,oration ?including the +ootnote@ with the +irst sentence o+ the next paragraph$ rather than with the sentence 3But it is a,ove all not true.3 (here is

no undecida,le reversal here. (his reading is +urther supported ,y the +act that the +ootnote .ust mentioned occurs a+ter 3vrai$3 rather than a+ter 3)t rIcipro1uement$3 and thus +urther indicates that the text ,reaks in the way argued here. (he statement$ then$ reads as +ollows: 39nd reciprocally -with the argument that =allarmI8s text enacts a displacement that must ,e distinguished +rom !latonist or egelian idealism/$ what interests us here is less these propositions o+ a philosophical type than the mode o+ their reinscription in the text o+ =imi1ue.3 E. 2errida8s statement is$ thus$ something very di++erent +rom what 5ightman appears to think it is$ especially in view o+ his mis1uotation. * suspect that correcting the latter would not a++ect his sense o+ 2errida8s writing$ and he makes clear that he has not read any o+ 2errida8s work himsel+ and instead relied on )llis8s ,ook. )llis8s analysis is deeply pro,lematic$ amounting to a massive misunderstanding o+ 2errida8s work$ and it is un+ortunate that it happened to ,e 5ightman8s ?only@ source. *n any event$ neither 2errida8s statement itsel+$ nor 5ightman8s commentary on it can ,e seen$ or ?* assume@ is o++ered$ as meaning+ully representing 2errida8s work or deconstruction. >. Dne might$ as * said$ ,e hesitant to critici%e 5ightman too much$ since his comments were presented in a humorous context--as a .oke$ a parody$ a spoo+--at a 3post-,an1uet talk3 and were made in this spirit ?* am$ again$ willing to give 5ightman the ,ene+it o+ the dou,t@$ without pro+essing any knowledge o+ or serious .udgments upon 2errida and deconstruction. is charming remarks can$ however$ have harm+ul conse1uences as well. !hysicists who were present and many more who will have read the ,ook where these remarks are pu,lished may well +orm a 3serious3 opinion a,out 2errida$ deconstruction$ contemporary ;rench philosophy$ literary criticism$ and so +orth on the ,asis o+ these remarks$ especially in con.unction with other recent events. (he 3tone3 alone$ without explicit 1uali+ications$ may not ,e enough to diminish these harm+ul e++ects. (he re+erence to )llis8s ,ook as the only scholarly source and$ it appears$ the only authority on the su,.ect$ is especially un+ortunate here$ even i+ one were to leave aside ?which is not possi,le in all rigor@ its title$ 3against deconstruction.3 (hat said$ however$ one must take into account the context o+ the occasion--a courtesy not extended to 2errida ,y most scientists in recent discussions. ;or$ i+ this type o+ treatment o+ 2errida8s or others8 text may ,e ?seen as@ permissi,le or$ at least$ excusa,le in the context o+ 5ightman8s talk$ the context o+ other recent commentaries is a di++erent matter. (heir extraordinary harm would not ,e diminished$ even i+ such critics had 5ightman8s charm--or his wit and style--which most o+ them do not. 9t least they do not display them in their encounters with deconstruction$ postmodernism$ and so +orth$ although some among these encounters are not without comedy. 9s 2errida commented on a di++erent occasion$ 3this is also extremely +unny.3 e added$ however: 3(he +act that this is also extremely +unny doesn8t detract

+rom the seriousness o+ the symptom.1G arm and arm

7. 9mong the many accusations and complaints made in 6ross and 7evitt8s igher 4uperstition$ those against 2errida and his 3idle3 usage o+ modern science take center stage. (his is o+ some interest$ given their actual account o+ 2errida8s engagement with mathematics and science$ +actually restricted to two isolated instances. Dne is the yppolite-2errida exchange$ and the other an egregious misstatement o+ 2errida. Dn that reading$ and on that type o+ 3reading3--restricted to crude attempts to 3catch3 direct re+erences to scienti+ic terms without even minimally considering 2errida8s text--2errida8s engagement with science would have to ,e seen as negligi,le$ although 6ross and 7evitt claim it$ without any textual support$ to ,e extensive. 9 reading in which the relationship ,etween 2errida8s work and science would ,ecome meaning+ul is de+initionally unavaila,le to the strategies and attitudes o+ 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook. (hey do not even comment in any meaning+ul way on 2errida8s usage o+ 6#del8s theorem$ argua,ly the most explicit and the most +amous re+erence o+ that type in 2errida. (hey only speak o+ its general a,use ,y postmodernists ?7M@. (hey do comment with relish$ however$ on two re+erences ?three$ i+ one counts a sneer at 2errida8s comments on alge,ra in the yppolite-2errida exchange -:>E$ n.1G/@. ;irst is the remark on relativity$ cited not altogether accurately and$ it appears$ +rom a secondary source ?:>E$ n.1G@$ ,ut +amous ever since: 9 +urther sense o+ 2errida8s eagerness to claim +amiliarity with deep scienti+ic matters can ,e o,tained +rom the +ollowing 1uotation$ which also gives one some sense o+ how seriously to take such claims: 3(he )insteinian constant is not a constant$ -is/ not a center. *t is the very concept o+ varia,ility--it is$ +inally$ the concept o+ the game. *n other words$ it is not the concept o+ some-thing/--o+ a center starting +rom which an o,server could master the +ield--,ut the very concept o+ the game.3 (he 3)insteinian constant3 is$ o+ course$ c$ the speed o+ light in vacuo$ roughly AGG million meters per second. !hysicists$ we can say with con+idence$ are not likely to ,e impressed ,y such ver,iage$ and are hardly apt to revise their thinking a,out the constancy o+ c. &ather$ it is more pro,a,le that they will develop a certain disdain +or scholars$ however eminent$ who talk this way$ and a corresponding disdain +or other scholars who propose to take such stu++ seriously. ;ortunately +or 2errida$ +ew scientists trou,le to read him$ while those academics who do are$ +or the most part$ so poorly versed in science that they have a hard time telling the real thing +rom the sheer ,lu++. ?79N corrections mine@ 4ince * will discuss 2errida8s comment on relativity ,elow$ * shall only say here that nothing can ,e +urther +rom the truth than the assertion o+ that

2errida is eager 3to claim +amiliarity with deep scienti+ic matters.3 9s we have seen$ the contrary is in +act true. *n truth$ all o+ 6ross and 7evitt8s assertions a,out 2errida are 1uite simply not true. =uch else may ,e said a,out their 3representation3 o+ 2errida in their ,ook. But it is a,ove all not true. 3=ais ce n8est surtout pas vrai.3 6ross and 7evitt are$ o,viously$ not among those 3+ew scientists -who/ trou,le to read3 2errida. 5hy$ then$ go to such extraordinary trou,le to comment on his work at such lengthJ 4ome answers$ * am a+raid$ are all too o,vious here. Dne cannot also help smiling at the naivete o+ their warning to scholars in the humanities o+ the impending danger o+ disdain on the part the scienti+ic community. ;or the moment$ however$ * would like to consider 6ross and 7evitt8s second main example o+ 2errida8s 3idle3 use or a,use o+ science. (hey write: (his -2errida8s remark on relativity/ is not$ we assure the reader$ an isolated case. *n various other 2erridean writings there are to ,e +ound$ +or example$ portentous re+erences to mathematical terms such as 3di++erential topology$3 used without de+inition and without any contextual .usti+ication. Flearly$ the intention is to assure readers who recogni%e vaguely that the language derives +rom contemporary science that 2errida is very much at home with its mysteries. ?79@ Dnce again$ none o+ these assertions is true. *ndeed$ their claims notwithstanding$ no other examples o+ such 3portentous re+erences3 are given.11 9s * said$ understanding the relationships ,etween 2errida8s work and mathematics and science re1uires a very di++erent type o+ reading. Fertainly$ at least some +amiliarity with his work would ,e necessary in any event$ as opposed to the monumental ignorance o+ 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook. Using scienti+ic terms 3without de+inition and without any contextual .usti+ication$3 however$ is something to which one can respond seriously. *t is o+ course also the kind o+ charge that * am making against the usages o+ 2errida ,y some scientists$ including$ naturally$ 6ross and 7evitt. 7et us see$ then. M. 6ross and 7evitt make much o+ their o,servation in a long +ootnote: 5e cannot resist the impulse to point out that in 2errida8s usage the word topology seems to ,e virtually synonymous with topography--at least the index regards them as identical. (his recollects an experience o+ one o+ us ?'.7.@ at the age o+ eighteen. 5hen ,eing interviewed ,y an insurance executive +or a summer actuarial .o, he was asked: 35hat kind o+ mathematics are you interested inJ3 3(opology$3 he replied. 35ell$ we don8t have too much interest in topography$3 said the insurance man. D,viously a deconstructionist avant la lettre. 2e+enders o+ deconstruction and other poststructuralist critical modalities will no

dou,t wish to point out that topos ?pl.: topoi@ is a recogni%ed term within literary theory +or a rhetorical or narrative theme$ +igure$ gesture$ or archetype$ and that there+ore it is permissi,le$ without asking leave o+ the mathematical community$ to deploy topology to designate the analysis o+ textual topoi. Dne8s suspicions are reignited$ however$ when the term di++erential topology suddenly appears. ?*n mathematics$ di++erential topology is used to denote the study o+ the topological aspects o+ o,.ects called 3di++erential ?or smooth@ mani+olds$3 which are$ roughly speaking$ higher-dimensional analogies o+ sur+aces in three-dimensional space -@/. ?:>E->>$ n. 11@ * leave aside the stale topology vs. topography .oke and the inappropriate and unproductive tone o+ this +ootnote. *t is more di++icult to leave aside the +act that (he 9cts o+ 7iterature consists o+ translations o+ 2errida8s various writings on literature$ which were edited$ and the index compiled$ ,y someone else. =oreover$ the re+erences in the index have clearly not ,een checked ,y 6ross and 7evitt. (he statement that 3in 2errida8s usage the word topology seems to ,e virtually synonymous with topography--at least the index regards them as identical$3 is$ at ,est$ a ,i%arre non-se1uitur. (he re+erences in the index--3topology ?atopology$ topography$ topoi@3 ?(he 9cts o+ 7iterature$ CEE@--indicate that these terms are related or used in similar contexts$ rather than that they are identical. ;ollowing 6ross and 7evitt8s logic$ 3topology3 and 3atopology3 would ,e seen as identical too. *n the text all these terms re+er to a general sense o+ 3topos3 as spatiality$ which$ as even 6ross and 7evitt admit$ need not entail a re+erence to topology as a mathematical discipline. 6ross and 7evitt have o,viously not read the volume$ nor do they appear to have checked the index against the text. *ndeed it is di++icult to say what they have read when they +ound 3di++erential topology.3 ere is 2errida8s statement itsel+$ +rom his essay on Oa+ka$ 3Be+ore the 7aw3 -2evant la 7oi/: (his di++erential topology -topi1ue di++Irantielle/ ad.ourns$ guardian a+ter guardian$ within the polarity o+ high and low$ +ar and near ?+ort/da@$ now and later. (he same topology without its own place$ the same atopology -atopi1ue/$ the same madness de+ers the law as the nothing that +or,ids itsel+ and the neuter that annuls oppositions. ?(he 9cts o+ 7iterature$ :GM-9@ D,viously$ one needs to know ,oth Oa+ka8s and 2errida8s texts to make sense o+ this passage$ even i+ 2errida8s had in +act appealed to di++erential topology here. Dne can easily see$ however$ that 2errida says di++erantial -di++Irantielle/--and not di++erential -di++Irentielle/--topology. (hat is$ he speaks o+ 3topology3 relating to his +amous neologism or rather neographism 3di++Irance$3 rather than to di++erential topology. (his di++erence is o+ course not audi,le in

the spoken ;rench. *t can only ,e made apparent in a written text. (his was one o+ the reasons why 2errida introduced his neographism. *n this sense 6ross and 7evitt8s mistake is deeply ironic. 5hen 2errida uses topography a ,it earlier in the same essay on Oa+ka$ it re+ers to an 3inscription3 ?in 2errida8s sense@ o+ the 3space3 or/as 3non-space3 o+ the law in Oa+ka. (his is why the editors list topography in the index. (here is$ o+ course$ no simple identity o+ topology and atopology here$ ,ut only the concept o+ di++Irantial topology as atopology--a topology without its own place--which may ,e a complex concept ,ut entails no claim on 2errida8s part concerning mathematical di++erential topology. *n +act$ 2errida does not even say topology here$ although he sometimes uses terms 3topology3 and 3topological3 elsewhere$ including on other occasions in (he 9cts o+ 7iterature. *t is true that the )nglish translation says topology here--o,viously ?it should ,e clear ,y now@ in the general$ rather than mathematical$ sense. owever$ the ;rench provided in parenthesis$ +or that very reason$ says 3topi1ue di++Irantielle3--a di++erantial space or place$ a certain topos or atopos$ or atopos-ness. (he ;rench +or di++erential topology is$ o+ course$ 3topologie di++Irentielle.3 6iven that his +ield is topology and that the ;rench is provided here$ it is inexplica,le that 7evitt ?a topologist@ did not pay attention to or did not ,other to check this point--especially since his aim was to attack 2errida8s misuse o+ scienti+ic terms. 9. 5e recall that 6ross and 7evitt accuse 2errida o+ 3using3 the term di++erential topology 3without de+inition and without any contextual .usti+ication.3 (he description appears to ,e +ar more appropriate as a characteri%ation o+ their own treatment o+ 2errida8s work and$ it can ,e similarly shown$ o+ their treatment o+ the work o+ 1uite a num,er o+ others whom they critici%e in their ,ook. *n general$ scholarly pro,lems o+ monumental proportions are$ to use the language o+ topology$ +ound in the immediate vicinity o+ .ust a,out every point o+ igher 4uperstition. *t is not so much em,arrassing errors$ even as egregious as that o+ the misreading o+ 3topi1ue di++erantielle3 as di++erential topology$ that are most crucial ?we all make mistakes$ sometimes a,surd mistakes@$ ,ut the intellectually and scholarly inadmissi,le practices and attitudes that pervade--and de+ine--this sadly irresponsi,le ,ook. 6ross and 7evitt8s warning concerning 3threats to the essential grace and comity o+ scholarship and the academic li+e3 ?ix@ ,ecomes$ in one o+ many ,i%arre ironies o+ the ,ook$ its sel+-description. (o ,e sure--we must acknowledge this--some o+ the 3postmodernist3 work on science is indeed ,ad. (here is$ however$ always some ,ad work in any +ield$ including mathematics and science. (he comedy o+ the ,ook is that it says the worst things a,out some o+ the ,est work and accepts and sometimes praises--and draws on--some o+ the worst. (he tragedy is that so many scientists$ including some among the ,est scientists$ have taken it seriously and accepted its arguments$ and even adopted its unaccepta,le attitudes.1: 1G. (he signi+icance o+ reading 2errida and others 3without

de+inition and without any contextual .usti+ication3 extends well ,eyond the protocols o+ intellectual and scholarly exchange. ;ollowing these protocols is essential. 9s * have stressed +rom the outset$ nothing in 2errida8s theory or practice$ more speci+ically deconstructive or other$ contradicts them--and much rein+orces them. 2errida himsel+ and other 3dangerous deconstructionists3 are more scrupulous and more classical--and$ one might even say$ more scienti+ic--than most o+ their critics. )ven more signi+icant$ however$ is that once one provides the proper 3de+inition3 and 3contextual .usti+ication3 +or 2errida8s terms--or those o+ other authors discussed in recent de,ates--there ,egins to emerge a very di++erent sense o+ ,oth these texts themselves and their relationships to mathematics and science. 3(he )insteinian Fonstant3 11. (o ?re@cite 2errida8s comment one more time: (he )insteinian constant is not a constant$ is not a center. *t is the very concept o+ varia,ility--it is$ +inally$ the concept o+ the game -.eu/. *n other words$ it is not the concept o+ something--o+ a center starting +rom which an o,server could master the +ield--,ut the very concept o+ the game which$ a+ter all$ * was trying to ela,orate. * ,egin ,y o,serving that the +inal clause o+ 2errida8s last sentence 3which$ a+ter all$ * was trying to ela,orate -in the lecture/3 is omitted ,y most i+ not all commentators involved. (his clause$ however$ is crucial ,ecause it indicates that the term 3game3 or 3play3 ?in this context a ,etter translation o+ the ;rench 3.eu$3 which carries ,oth meanings@ has a very speci+ic meaning here. (his meaning$ * shall argue$ is consistent with the philosophical content o+ relativity$ which$ in ,rie+$ is the core point o+ the yppolite-2errida exchange on the su,.ect. *n other words$ conceptually$ relativity entails a certain decentered play in 2errida8s sense o+ the term. (he concept o+ play is central to 2errida8s essay 34tructure$ 4ign$ and !lay in the 2iscourse o+ the uman 4ciences$3 an oral presentation o+ which at a con+erence at 0ohns opkins in 19>> occasioned the exchange.1A Understanding how 2errida uses the term 3play3 in his essay and understanding what yppolite and 2errida mean ,y 3the )insteinian constant3 are$ there+ore$ ,oth essential +or a meaning+ul reading o+ 2errida8s statement. =ost scientists who commented in print on this statement have not care+ully considered this concept$ at ,est they ,arely mentioned it.1C 1:. (he accuracy o+ 1uotations +rom 2errida and others ,y their critics in the scienti+ic community$ such as 4okal or 6ross and 7evitt$ has ,een stressed ,y many scientists involved in the de,ates at issue$ and they are right to do so. 9s we have seen$ not all o+ these 1uotations proved to ,e as accurate as these scientists ,elieved. owever$ even assuming that such 1uotations are accurate$ their literal accuracy is meaningless i+

the reader is not provided with the meanings o+ the terms involved ?such as 3play/game3 or 3the )insteinian constant3@$ is deprived o+ the possi,ility o+ esta,lishing them +rom the 1uotation itsel+$ or is +ree to construe them on the ,asis o+ other sources--say$ one8s general knowledge o+ physics$ as opposed to the meaning given to these terms ,y 2errida8s essay or ,y yppolite8s 1uestion. (hus$ what would ,e the meaning o+ one8s accurate 1uotation when 3the )insteinian constant3 is made to ,e the gravitational constant as it +igures in general relativity ?as suggested ,y 4okal8s hoax@ or the +amous c$ the speed o+ light in a vacuum ?as 6ross and 7evitt claim@$ i+$ as * shall suggest$ yppolite meant something else ,y itJ1E *ndeed$ i+ 2errida8s statement is given without any +urther explanation o+ the terms o+ his essay$ one can hardly ,e surprised at a reaction such as 4teven 5ein,erg8s 3* have no idea what this is intended to mean3 ?34okal8s oax$3 11@$ or any num,er o+ similarly dismissive responses that we have encountered recently ?leaving aside +or the moment 3responses3 o+ the kind one +inds in 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook$ unaccepta,le under all conditions@. 9 di++erent picture emerges only i+ one considers care+ully 2errida8s and yppolite8s statements themselves and their context$ especially 2errida8s work itsel+. 2errida8s statement$ however$ has ,een commented upon without any consideration o+ its textual and circumstantial context$ and without even minimal attention to the meaning o+ its terms--even$ sadly$ ,y scholars and scientists o+ extraordinary achievement$ such as 5ein,erg$ a 'o,el !ri%e laureate$ at least in his 'ew Hork &eview o+ Books article 34okal8s oax.3 1A. *n his contri,ution to the exchange on his article$ 5ein,erg$ to his credit$ acknowledges that he did not initially pay much attention to the meaning o+ 2errida8s key terms and gives some consideration to the context o+ 2errida8s statement$ speci+ically to yppolite8s remarks. e says in particular that in his initial reaction to 2errida8s comment in 34okal8s oax$3 he 3was ,othered not so much ,y the o,scurity o+ 2errida8s terms 8center8 and 8game.8 * was willing to suppose that these were terms o+ art$ de+ined elsewhere ,y 2errida3 ?34teven 5ein,erg &eplies$3 E>@. *n his su,se1uent reply to his critics in 34teven 5ein,erg &eplies$3 5ein,erg says: 35hat ,othered me was his phrase 8the )insteinian constant$8 which * have never met in my work as a physicist3 ?E>@. e proceeds$ +irst$ to suggest a possi,le meaning +or the phrase and then to o++er some comments on 2errida8s essay and the yppolite-2errida exchange. e does not$ however$ consider yppolite8s own description o+ the -)insteinian/ 3constant.3 'or does he o++er a su,stantive commentary on or interpretation o+ the concept o+ play$ which is$ again$ decisive here. 5ein,erg8s 1uotation +rom 2errida8s essay on the term 3center3 is hardly ade1uate to explain 2errida8s idea o+ decentering and play$ and it is not surprising that this 1uotation was 3not much help3 to him ?E>@. (he passage that 5ein,erg cites occurs in the introductory portion o+ the essay$ as part o+ the discussion o+ the .oint historical +unctioning o+ the concepts o+

3structure3 and 3center:3 3'evertheless$ ... structure--or rather$ the structurality o+ structure--although it has always ,een involved$ has always ,een neutrali%ed or reduced$ and this ,y a process o+ giving it a center or re+erring it to a point o+ presence$ a +ixed origin.3 2errida8s phrase$ omitted ,y 5ein,erg$ 3up to the event which * wish to mark and to de+ine -in 34tructure$ 4ign$ !lay3/$ indicates that 2errida is making primarily an introductory historical point here. is concept o+ decentered play emerges later in the essay$ although a +ew sentences +ollowing the one cited ,y 5ein,erg may already give one a ,etter sense o+ 2errida8s ideas concerning 3structure$3 3center$3 and 3play3: (he +unction o+ this center was not only to orient$ ,alance$ and organi%e the structure--one cannot in +act conceive o+ unorgani%ed structure--,ut a,ove all to make sure that the organi%ing principle o+ the structure would limit what we might call the play o+ the structure. By orienting and organi%ing the coherence o+ the system$ the center o+ a structure permits the play o+ its elements inside the total +orm. 9nd even today the notion o+ structure lacking any center represents the unthinka,le itsel+. ?5riting and 2i++erence$ :7M-79@ *n short$ those un+amiliar with 2errida8s ideas would need a more extensive reading o+ 2errida8s essay and a more comprehensive explication o+ its terms$ and more patience and caution may ,e necessary ,e+ore one is ready to agree$ or disagree$ with 5ein,erg8s conclusion: 3*t seemed to me 2errida in context is even worse than 2errida out o+ context3 ?34teven 5ein,erg &eplies$3 E>@. (he contexts and concepts at issue$ however$ may well not ,e su++iciently +amiliar to most scientists +or them to ,e a,le to o++er the kind o+ reading o+ 2errida8s statement that is suggested here. 'or should they ,e expected to ,e +amiliar with these ideas and contexts$ or have any o,ligation to engage them in any way. *t is not a 1uestion o+ ,laming 5ein,erg$ a great physicist and ?which not irrelevant here@ one o+ the most open to radical and innovative theories in physics itsel+$ or most other scientists involved. Dne might regret a certain lack o+ intellectual curiosity on the part o+ those scientists or their unwillingness to consult the experts on 2errida$ or indeed--5hy notJ--2errida himsel+$ something that$ in more general terms$ 5ein,erg appears to endorse as well ?34okal8s oax$3 1C@. &eciprocally$ scientists can ,e exceptionally help+ul to scholars in the humanities$ and they have ,een throughout intellectual history$ in clari+ying ,oth science itsel+ and philosophical concepts emerging in science. (his is why * descri,e the present situation as sad rather than in terms o+ ,lame. 1C. yppolite8s and 2errida8s critics in the scienti+ic community not only cite their comments out o+ context ,ut virtually disregard the minimal relevant norms o+ intellectual and$ especially$ scholarly exchange. 2errida8s statement appears in the transcript o+ an

improvised response to yppolite8s 1uestion +ollowing an oral presentation o+ his essay. (he essay does not mention relativity and the statement itsel+ makes no su,stantive scienti+ic claims. &elativity and 3the -)insteinian/ constant3 are ,rought in ,y yppolite$ not 2errida$ who responds to yppolite extemporaneously$ in the context o+ his .ust-delivered paper. 6iven these circumstances$ a responsi,le commentator--scholar$ scientist$ .ournalist$ or other--un+amiliar with 2errida would ,e hesitant to .udge 2errida8s statement without undertaking a +urther investigation o+ his work$ ,eginning with 34tructure$ 4ign and !lay.3 (he conclusions may o+ course ,e di++erent +rom those reached ,y the present analysis$ ,ut no conclusion would ,e ethically$ intellectually$ or scholarly responsi,le short o+ such an investigation. 1E. (here is nothing exceptional in the circumstances themselves. 4uch complexities o+ improvisation$ transcription$ translation$ and interpretation o+ten arise at con+erences$ and the circumstances that lead to them remain signi+icant when such exchanges are su,se1uently reproduced in con+erence volumes$ as is the case here and as is made clear ,y the editors o+ the volume ?7anguages o+ Friticism$ xi-xiii@. *t is true that such statements are sometimes edited ,y the authors ,e+ore pu,lication and technically re1uire their permission to ,e reproduced. 4uch is not always the case$ however$ and it is dou,t+ul that it was done here$ indeed it is virtually certain that it was not. yppolite$ however$ died ,e+ore the volume at issue went into production and did not even have a chance to edit his own contri,ution$ let alone his exchange with 2errida. owever$ in spite and sometimes ,ecause o+ the interpretive pro,lems that they pose$ such statements and exchanges are signi+icant$ historically and conceptually. =y argument$ there+ore$ is that the circumstances o+ these statements must ,e given special consideration in interpreting and evaluating them$ rather than serving as a reason +or dismissing them$ as some have argued in the case o+ the yppolite-2errida exchange. 1>. 4ome ?very +ew@ scientists$ such as 5ein,erg$ as considered earlier$ have admitted$ grudgingly$ that the circumstances o+ 2errida8s remark may re1uire additional consideration. 4uch admissions in themselves are hardly su++icient$ however. ;irst o+ all$ they are +ar 3too little$ too late3--a+ter two years o+ relentless a,use$ ,eginning with 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook. 4econdly$ more distressingly$ they do not appear to signal much change in the overall hostile and unpro+essional--and$ one might indeed say$ unscienti+ic--attitude towards the work o+ 2errida and other +igures on the part o+ the scientists involved ?although there ,egin to appear some more encouraging signs here and there@. ;inally$ most signi+icantly$ they are accompanied neither ,y meaning+ul ?re@readings o+ 2errida8s statement itsel+ ?still considered as$ at ,est$ inept@ nor ,y meaning+ul ?re@considerations o+ the relationships ,etween his ideas and the philosophical content o+ modern science. (hese

relationships give 2errida8s and yppolite8s statements their meaning and signi+icance in spite o+ their improvised character. *t is with these relationships in mind that * now turn to yppolite8s remark$ introducing the +amous 3constant.3 yppolite said$ according to the transcript o+ the exchange: 5ith )instein$ +or example$ we see the end o+ a kind o+ privilege o+ empiric evidence. 9nd in that connection we see a constant appears$ a constant which is a com,ination o+ space-time$ which does not ,elong to any o+ the experimenters who live the experience$ ,ut which$ in a way$ dominates the whole constructN and this notion o+ the constant--is this the center -i.e. would it ,e$ according to 2errida8s argument/J ?7anguages o+ Friticism$ :>>$ emphasis added.@ yppolite8s +irst sentence is somewhat o,scure$ which$ again$ is not surprising given the improvised and tentative$ pro,ing nature o+ his comments. *t can$ however$ ,e read as compati,le with special relativity$ in particular the idea that the distinction ,etween space and time depends on the o,server. Fertain statements$ which would have o,.ective ?universal@ 3empirical3 value according to classical physics--say$ as concerns a se1uence o+ two given events ?9 ,e+ore B@--can no longer ,e seen as valid universally ,ut instead as depending on a speci+ic re+erence +rame$ since the se1uence can ,e reversed i+ seen +rom the perspective o+ another +rame ?in which B will precede 9@.1> 17. =ore important here is the 1uestion o+ 3the )insteinian constant3 itsel+$ although it is related to the preceding consideration$ as yppolite says. yppolite does not actually use the phrase 3the )insteinian constant$3 which is introduced ,y 2errida. *t thus clearly re+ers to yppolite8s remark$ rather than to any accepted scienti+ic term$ and is$ in this sense$ a local contextual re+erence. 9s used ,y yppolite$ the 3constant3 here may not mean--and does not appear to mean--a numerical constant$ as virtually all the physicists who commented on it appear to assume. *nstead it appears to mean the )insteinian ?or )insteinian-=inkowskian@ concept o+ space-time itsel+$ since yppolite speaks o+ 3a constant which is a com,ination o+ space-time3 ?emphasis added@$ or the so-called spatio-temporal interval$ invariant ?3constant3@ under 7orent% trans+ormations o+ special relativity. (his interval is also ,oth 3a com,ination o+ space-time3 and something that 3does not ,elong to any o+ the experimenters who live the experience$3 and can ,e seen as 3dominat-ing/ the whole construct3 ?i.e. the conceptual +ramework o+ relativity in this =inkowskian +ormulation@. *ndeed$ it is possi,le that yppolite has in mind this latter ?more elegant@ interpretation$ while 2errida understood the 3constant3 as re+erring to the )insteinian concept o+ space-time itsel+. (his di++erence is ultimately not that crucial$ since ,oth these notions are correlative ?and ,oth are correlative to the constancy o+ the speed o+ light c in a vacuum and its independence o+ the state o+ motion o+

the source@ and ,oth re+lect key +eatures--decentering$ varia,ility$ play ?in 2errida8s sense@$ and so +orth--at stake in yppolite8s and 2errida8s statements. *n any event$ given the text$ these interpretations are more plausi,le than seeing the phrase as re+erring to a numerical constant. 1M. (his alternative interpretation is not de+initive$ and no de+initive interpretation may ,e possi,le$ given the status o+ the text as considered earlier. 9t the same time$ interpretations o+ these statements are possi,le and may ,e necessary--+or many reasons$ +or example$ the interpretations that occasion this article. ;or these statements have ,een interpreted without any consideration o+ these complexities or any serious attempt to make sense o+ them. *t is more productive$ however$ to take these complexities into account$ to sort them out to the degree possi,le$ and to give these statements the most sensi,le rather than the most senseless interpretation. 19. *n view o+ those aspects o+ yppolite8s and 2errida8s meanings that can ,e esta,lished with more certainty +rom ,roader contexts ?such as that o+ 2errida8s essay@$ the a,ove interpretation?s@ o+ the )insteinian constant are ,oth possi,le and plausi,le$ or at least allowa,le ,y their statements. (he moment one accepts this interpretation$ 2errida8s statement ,egins to sound 1uite a ,it less strange. *t ac1uires an even greater congruence with relativity once one understands the term 3play/game3 as connoting$ in this context ?it is a more radical and richer concept overall@$ the impossi,ility within )instein8s +ramework o+ space-time o+ a uni1uely privileged +rame o+ re+erence--a center +rom which an o,server could master the +ield ?i.e. the whole o+ space-time@. )ven i+ my reading o+ 3the )insteinian constant3 is tentative$ the meaning * suggest +or 2errida8s term 3play3 -.eu/ is easily supporta,le on the ,asis o+ his essay and related works. 4o is$ it +ollows$ the understanding o+ this concept as congruent with ?* do not say e1uivalent to@ certain philosophical ideas and implications o+ relativity$ and it may ,e in part inde,ted to these ideas$ however indirectly. :G. Dne might$ then$ see 2errida8s statement re+lecting the +act that$ in contrast to classical--'ewtonian--physics$ the space-time o+ special$ and even more so o+ general$ relativity disallows a 'ewtonian universal ,ackground with its ?separate@ a,solute space and a,solute time$ or a uni1uely privileged +rame o+ re+erence +or physical events. (he )insteinian or )insteinian-=inkowskian concept o+ space-time may ,e seen as correlative to the assumption that the speed o+ light is independent o+ the state o+ motion o+ either the source or the o,server$ and$ in this sense$ these 3two )insteinian constants3 may ,e seen as conceptually e1uivalent.17 (he 3constancy3 or$ ,etter$ invariance$ in special relativity$ o+ the so-called spatio-temporal interval under 7orent% trans+ormations arises +rom the same considerations and was introduced in this +orm ,y =inkowski$ and eventually led him to the concept o+

space-time. ?* ,ypass the explanation o+ these$ more technical$ terms themselves$ since this is not essential +or my main point--the decentered structure o+ the space-time o+ relativity.@ 9s * said$ * +ind it plausi,le that yppolite had in mind precisely this concept. (he )insteinian ?concept o+@ space-time$ however$ can ,e more immediately linked to 2errida8s concepts o+ decentering$ varia,ility$ and play$ and this is why$ as * suggested earlier$ it is possi,le that 2errida and yppolite have two di++erent 3constants3 in mind here. Both 3constants$3 however$ or c$ derive +rom the same theory$ )instein8s ?special@ relativity$ and this theory entails a certain general philosophical conceptuality$ such as that o+ 3play3 in 2errida8s sense. 2errida sometimes speaks$ via 'iet%sche and eidegger$ o+ 3the play o+ the world3 itsel+$ as opposed to play in the world. e posits a certain irreduci,le varia,ility o+ the world itsel+ and/as our construction o+ it$ as opposed to the concept o+ the world as a ?3+lat3@ ,ackground o+ events given once and +or all$ such as 'ewton8s a,solute space in classical physics. ;rom this perspective$ 3the )insteinian constant$3 understood as the concept o+ )insteinian space-time$ could indeed ,e seen$ at least metaphorically$ as 3the very concept o+ varia,ility3 and$ at the limit$ as the concept o+ play/game -.eu/ developed ,y 2errida.1M :1. Dne might$ thus$ see yppolite8s and 2errida8s remarks as relating to certain standard philosophical +eatures o+ )instein8s relativity--presented$ admittedly$ in a nonstandard idiom$ especially +or physicists. 9t the very least$ these remarks can ,e read as consistent or$ again$ congruent with the philosophical ideas and implications o+ relativity$ as they have ,een ela,orated in the scienti+ic and philosophical literature on the su,.ect. 5hat yppolite suggests is that part o+ the conceptual content o+ )instein8s relativity with its space-time may serve as a kind o+ model +or the 2erridean concept o+ decentered play and related ideas. (his suggestion is neither surprising nor especially di++icult +or anyone who has read 2errida8s essay and has some knowledge o+ certain key ideas o+ relativity. 2errida responds more or less positively$ ,ut suggests that one needs a more decentered view o+ 3the )insteinian constant3--which is to say o+ the physical world according to )instein8s relativity or$ as will ,e seen$ o+ scienti+ic theories themselves--than yppolite appears ?to 2errida@ to suggest. (his may well ,e more or less as +ar as one can go with reasona,le certainty regarding what yppolite and 2errida could mean. (he remainder o+ the reading o++ered here is an exploration o+ certain possi,ilities and implications o+ these connections ,etween relativity and 2errida8s ideas. 'ot much else might ,e possi,le under the circumstances o+ the exchange. owever$ at least as much as investigation as was undertaken here may ,e necessary in order to produce a reading o+ it like that suggested here--a reading connecting$ historically and conceptually$ 2errida8s work and the philosophical implications o+ )instein8s relativity. 9s * have stressed throughout$ these are philosophical 1uestions$ rather than

1uestions o+ physics$ that are at stake$ and ,oth yppolite8s and 2errida8s remarks must ,e read and evaluated accordingly. ::. 4uch philosophical 1uestions and implications are signi+icant$ however$ and their signi+icance is in no way diminished ,y the circumstances o+ the exchange$ such as the improvised nature o+ these remarks. (his exchange re+lects concepts$ including those o+ yppolite and 2errida$ which are anything ,ut improvised--1uite the contraryN these concepts$ such as 3play$3 are thought through in 2errida in the most rigorous way. )ven more signi+icantly$ they re+lect and ?at least in part@ derive +rom the philosophical 1uestions arising in modern science itsel+. (his is in part why in introducing his 1uestion yppolite says that 3we have a great deal to learn +rom modern science3 ?7anguages o+ Friticism$ :>>@. (his is also why * would ,e hesitant to treat these remarks as merely 3casual$3 3o++hand$3 and so +orth$ and dismiss them on these grounds. 9s * have indicated$ the latter argument was advanced ,y some in de+ending 2errida against recent criticism on the part o+ the scienti+ic community$ and even have ,een to a degree accepted ,y some critics as well. (his$ however$ is a weak de+ense$ and at stake in my argument here is not a de+ence o+ 2errida. (he 1uestion may well ,e whether 2errida8s or other contemporary philosophical thought$ however rigorous and radical$ is yet rigorous and radical enough +or what it is at stake at the philosophical limits o+ relativity ?especially general relativity@ or elsewhere in modern physics$ in particular in 1uantum theory. (hroughout its history$ physics has ,een an extraordinarily +ertile ground +or 1uestioning our philosophical assumptions. (his is in part why 'iet%sche said: 3Und darum: och die !hysik" Und h#her noch das$ was uns %u ihr %wingt$--unsre &edlichkeit"3 -9nd this is why: long live physics" 9nd even more so that which +orces us to turn to it--our integrity/19 *+ there is a rigorous$ meaning+ul$ and productive criticism to ,e o++ered here--+or example$ ,ased on physics--it should ,e o++ered. 5e have not$ however$ seen such criticism in recent exchanges. (he very 1uestion o+ how casual such 3casual3 remarks are$ or can ,e$ would have to ,e reconsidered +rom this perspective. 4ome o+ the most signi+icant ideas in science and philosophy alike were introduced ,y way o+ 3casual3 remarks$ +ootnotes$ and so +orth. 9s 2errida says$ 3it is always ,etter$ and its is always more scienti+ic$ to read3 ?!oints...$ C1CN emphasis added@. :A. yppolite invokes next still more radical conceptual possi,ilities suggested ,y modern science$ re+erring$ +irst$ implicitly ?at least$ it can ,e read in this way@ to 1uantum physics and then$ overtly$ to ,iology. (hese re+erences$ their connections to 2errida8s ideas$ and 2errida8s response to them re1uire a separate discussion$ as does the remainder o+ the exchange$ which raises 1uestions concerning the relationships ,etween ?post@structuralism and the philosophical aspects o+ mathematics ?in particular alge,ra or$ more accurately$ 3alge,rai%ation3@ and science. 4ome o+ these 1uestions have an interesting history in the

context o+ 3structuralist controversy3 ?and o+ course a still longer history$ extending to/+rom 6reek and Ba,ylonian mathematics@. =ichel 4erres even argues that we might need to rethink structuralism +rom the perspective o+ its connections to twentieth-century mathematics$ speci+ically the Bour,aki pro.ect.:G 9ndrI 5eil$ one o+ the great mathematicians o+ this century and a +ounding mem,er o+ the Bour,aki group ?and the ,rother o+ 4imone 5eil@$ wrote an appendix to 7Ivi-4trauss8s (he )lementary 4tructures o+ Oinship.:1 Both 2errida and yppolite ?or 4erres@ must have ,een aware o+ 5eil8s article and might have ,een +amiliar with it. 2errida8s 34tructure$ 4ign$ and !lay3 is$ we recall$ primarily an analysis and a deconstruction o+ Flaude 7Ivi-4trauss and structuralism.:: (he essay does not consider this mathematical or$ again$ mathematico-philosophical pro,lematic and its relationships with structuralism. owever$ it can hardly ,e simply disconnected +rom them$ and some o+ these connections emerge more explicitly in other essays in 5riting and 2i++erence and elsewhere in 2errida ?especially in his earlier work@. 9t the very least$ 2errida8s philosophical ideas can ,e meaning+ully engaged in exploring these relationships$ as yppolite indeed suggests. :C. (here are +urther nuances concerning relativity as well$ especially those relating to the di++erence ,etween the centering o+ 3the whole -theoretical/ construct3--that is$ as * read it$ the overall conceptual +ramework o+ relativity--around the concept o+ space-time and the centering o+ the space-time o+ special or general relativity itsel+.:A Foncentrating here on 3the )insteinian constant$3 2errida does not appear to address the +irst 1uestion as such ?or conceiva,ly$ and$ again$ under the circumstances understanda,ly$ con+lates ,oth 1uestions@. *t may well ,e$ however$ that he intimates a negative answer here as well. ;or +rom the 2erridean perspective it would ,e di++icult$ perhaps impossi,le$ to claim any central or uni1ue concept--the 3constant3--de+ining the )insteinian +ramework. *t is$ there+ore$ possi,le that 2errida has this point in mind. *nvariance or sta,ility o+ a conceptual center o+ a theoretical structure$ such as relativity$ is$ o+ course$ 1uite di++erent +rom invariance o+ a physical constant. Dne might suggest$ however$ that in the case o+ the yppolite-2errida exchange a certain concept o+ decentering de+ining the space and time o+ relativity coincides with the idea o+ decentering o+ the overall conceptual structure o+ the theory itsel+. 'o concept ,elonging to the latter$ not even that o+ the decentered space-time$ may ,e seen as an a,solute center o+ relativity theory--a center invariant under all theoretical and historical trans+ormations o+ this theory. (hat is$ such conceptual centering may change +rom one version o+ relativity to another ?this centering is relative in this sense@$ and some +orms o+ relativity may ,e constructed as conceptually decentered in themselves. *ndeed$ there have ,een considera,le de,ates among historians o+ science as to the relative centrality o+ key experimental +acts and theoretical ideas o+ special relativity$ either as originally introduced ,y )instein

or in its su,se1uent$ such as =inkowskian$ +orms. 9ll these nuances would have to ,e considered in order to make a +ull-+ledged argument o+ the type suggested here$ as against unscholarly recent treatments o+ 2errida and yppolite which are unaccepta,le regardless o+ potential pro,lems one might have with their comments on relativity or their ideas in general. :E. (he possi,ility o+ such an argument should not ,e surprising. 'either yppolite nor 2errida claims to have expertise in physics itsel+. owever$ leaving aside their general erudition$ ,oth have ,een the readers and ?especially yppolite@ colleagues o+ such world-+amous philosophers and scholars o+ science as 9lexandre OoyrI$ 6aston Bachelard$ and others$ and o+ a num,er o+ ma.or mathematicians and scientists. (hese authors$ including mathematicians and scientists$ commented extensively on philosophical issues in and implications o+ relativity$ and are cited ,y many experts in the history and philosophy o+ science. =any discussions o+ the 7ei,ni%-Flarke de,ate in philosophical literature$ known to yppolite ?or 2errida@$ consider )instein8s relativity$ ,oth speci+ic and general theory$ as a culmination or at least a crucial point in the history opened ,y this de,ate. =oreover$ as the director o+ the Pcole 'ormale$ the center o+ ;rench philosophy$ mathematics and science$ which he headed +or ten years ?19EC->A@$ yppolite had access to the most sophisticated scienti+ic and philosophical in+ormation on the su,.ect. e was previously a chair at the 4or,onne and a pro+essor at the FollQge de ;rance therea+ter$ where he also had ample opportunities to discuss modern mathematics and science$ in which he had considera,le interest throughout his li+e. *t is worth mentioning in this context that yppolite was granted admission to the Pcole 'ormale on the ,asis o+ his a,ility in philosophy and mathematics. 2errida$ too$ spent years o+ his career at the Pcole 'ormale$ +irst as a student ?o+$ among others$ yppolite@ and then as a pro+essor$ and had similar access to key ideas o+ modern mathematics and science in general. *t cannot there+ore ,e surprising that ,oth yppolite and 2errida would know enough a,out relativity to make philosophically sensi,le or even suggestive remarks a,out it. =oreover$ there are considera,le independent philosophical a++inities ,etween relativity and 2errida8s ideas--that is$ i+ these a++inities are indeed independent given the intellectual history .ust indicated. :>. Dne could argue that the connections ,etween 2errida8s work and relativity are not restricted to those indicated so +ar and involve deeper epistemological 1uestions$ crucial to the continuing de,ate concerning the philosophical interpretation and implications o+ relativity. Fonversely$ one can 1uestion how productive a 2erridean +ramework could ,e as an approach to ?the philosophy o+@ relativity. 5hichever way one8s argument may proceed here$ however$ it must ,e conducted very di++erently +rom reading 2errida8s statement in a deli,erately distorted or parody-like manner$ as in 4okal8s hoaxN or +rom o++ering 3criticism3 o+ it that is clearly unin+ormed$ as in 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ookN

or +rom other non-treatments o+ it on ,oth sides o+ the recent 3science wars.3 4uch an argument would also ,e di++erent +rom what one +inds in 4okal8s article in 7ingua ;ranca ?disclosing his hoax@ and his other 3serious3 commentaries on the su,.ect: a mani+est philosophical naivete and ignorance o+ philosophical literature$ including that on relativity and 1uantum physics$ let alone o+ the work o+ 2errida and other +igures on whom he comments ?which latter ignorance 4okal indeed acknowledges@.:C (he 1uestion is not whether 2errida8s comments on relativity or other areas o+ mathematics and science$ or his work in general should ,e critici%ed$ ,ut at what level o+ intellectual engagement$ knowledge$ and scholarship such criticism o+ 2errida and others should take place. :7. 4cholars in the humanities should$ o+ course$ exercise due caution as to the claims they make a,out mathematics and science$ and respect the areas o+ their speci+icity. &eciprocally$ however$ scientists and other non-humanist scholars should exercise due care and similar caution in their characteri%ation o+ the humanities$ especially when they are dealing with innovative and complex work$ such as that o+ 2errida$ and all the more so i+ they want to ,e critical a,out it. 2errida would ,e willing and indeed eager to accept any open-minded criticism o+ his comment on relativity or his ideas a,out science in general$ especially ,y scientists. 4o +ar$ however$ no such criticism--not even a dismissal that can ,e taken seriously--has ,een o++ered$ at least not yet. *n order +or this to happen$ reading$ in =aurice Blanchot8s words$ must ,ecome a serious task +or all o+ us$ scientists and nonscientists alike. Dn another occasion ?in con.unction with the controversy surrounding his honorary degree +rom Fam,ridge@$ 2errida o++ered the +ollowing comment on the negative sentiments o+ certain scientists towards his work$ expressed$ it appears$ without reading it: * would ,e content here with a classical answer$ the most +aith+ul to what * respect the most in the university: it is ,etter$ and it is always more scienti+ic$ to read and to make a pronouncement on what has ,een read and understood. (he most competent scientists and those most committed to research$ inventors and discoverers$ are in general$ on the contrary$ very sensitive to history and to processes which modi+y the +rontiers and esta,lished norms o+ their own discipline$ in this way prompting them to ask other 1uestions$ other types o+ 1uestion. * have never seen scientists re.ect in advance what seemed to come +rom other areas o+ research or in1uiry$ other disciplines$ even i+ that encouraged them to modi+y their grounds and to 1uestion the +undamental axioms o+ their discipline. * could 1uote here the numerous testimonies o+ scientists in the most diverse disciplines which +latly contradict what the scientists you mention -in con.unction with the Fam,ridge incident/ are saying. ?!oints...$ C1C@

Dne can +ind many such testimonies in the works o+ )instein$ Bohr$ eisen,erg$ and other +ounding +igures o+ modern physics$ or in the works o+ many ma.or mathematicians and scientists in other +ields. 9 more serious engagement with 2errida8s and other recent philosophical work on the part o+ scientists is possi,le$ too$ and we might yet see it. (hen$ perhaps$ we will also have a ,etter understanding o+ why 3the )insteinian constant is not a constant$ is not a center$3 why 3it is the very concept o+ varia,ility$3 and why 3it is$ +inally$ the concept o+ the game3-- or$ i+ that is the case$ why it is none o+ the a,ove. (he 7iterature !rogram and (he Fenter +or *nterdisciplinary 4tudies in 4cience and Fultural (heory 2uke University aplotnitRacpu,.duke.edu Fopyright 1997 9rkady !lotnitsky 'D(): mem,ers o+ a su,scri,ed campus may use this work +or any internal noncommercial purpose$ ,ut$ other than one copy sent ,y email$ print$ or +ax to one person at another location +or that individual8s personal use$ distri,ution o+ this article outside o+ the su,scri,ed campus$ in whole or in part$ without express written permission +rom the 0 U !ress is expressly +or,idden. 'otes 1. (he 7anguages o+ Friticism and the 4ciences o+ =an: (he 4tructuralist Fontroversy$ eds. &ichard =acksey and )ugenio 2onato ?Baltimore and 7ondon: 0ohns opkins U!$ 197G@$ :>7. :. !aul &. 6ross and 'orman 7evitt$ igher 4uperstition: (he 9cademic 7e+t and its Suarrels with 4cience ?Baltimore: 0ohns opkins U!$ 199C@N 9lan 2. 4okal$ 3(ransgressing the Boundaries--(owards a (rans+ormative ermeneutics o+ Suantum 6ravity$3 4ocial (ext ?4pring/4ummer$ 199>@$ :17-:E:. (he continuing proli+eration o+ su,se1uent commentaries and discussions on and around$ as it ,ecame known$ 34okal8s hoax3 is staggering$ even leaving the innumera,le exchanges on the *nternet aside. 'o end is un+ortunately in sight. 2errida8s comment +igures most prominently and$ again$ nearly uni1uely throughout these discussions. *n particular$ it was discussed in 4teven 5ein,erg$ 34okal8s oax$3 'ew Hork &eview o+ Books ?9ugust M$ 199>@$ 11-1E$ and 34okal8s oax: 9n )xchange3 'ew Hork &eview o+ Books ?Dcto,er A$ 199>@$ EC-E>. A. is very +irst ,ook was a translation o+ and an introduction to usserl8s essay 3(he Drigin o+ 6eometry.3 Beyond a num,er o+ su,stantive commentaries throughout his works$ one can especially mention here as yet unpu,lished seminar 37a vie la mort$3 concerned in 2errida8s own words$ 3with 8modern8 pro,lematic o+ ,iology$ genetics$ epistemology$ or the history o+ li+e sciences ?reading o+ 0aco,$ Fanguilhem$ etc.@3 ?(he

!ost Fard$ tr. 9lan Bass -Fhicago: U o+ Fhicago !$ 19M7/$ :E9$ n.1@. C. 4ee his remarks in ;lorian &#t%er$ Fonversations with ;rench !hilosophers$ tr. 6ary ). 9ylesworth ?9tlantic ighlands$ '. 0.: umanities !ress$ 199E@$ E. E. 4ee$ again$ Fonversations with ;rench !hilosophers$ E. >. Dn these issues in a more general context$ see 2errida8s analysis in 37imited *nc a , c ...3 and$ especially$ 39+terword: (oward an )thic o+ 2iscussion$3 in 7imited *nc ?)vanston$ *7.: 'orthwestern U!$ 19MM@. D+ course$ as 2errida8s analysis$ including in 2issemination$ exhaustively demonstrates$ it is not possi,le to control ?the dissemination o+@ the meaning o+ 2errida8s statements$ such as those under discussion here$ any more than o+ any other statement. (he overall case here considered o++ers a power+ul$ i+ distressing$ illustration o+ this point. 'or is it possi,le to claim that any given reading ?+or example$ the one o++ered here@ is de+initive. (hat does not mean$ however$ that one should not read with utmost care$ rigor and respect the context under which a given statement is made$ or that one cannot argue a,out such readings$ or that one can simply disregard traditional norms o+ interpretation or scholarship-- 1uite the contrary. (his view is +ully in accord with ,oth deconstructive theory and deconstructive practice$ at least the ,est theory and the ,est practice o+ deconstruction$ such as those o+ 2errida himsel+$ 1uite in contrast with many o+ his readers$ such as those discussed here. 2errida8s readings and those o+ other responsi,le practitioners o+ deconstruction scrupulously +ollow such classical protocols. 2econstruction does argue that such protocols$ even i+ scrupulously adhered to$ cannot guarantee determinate results. (he present case is an o,vious example o+ this situation$ too. 2econstruction would aim to explain what happens here and why$ and 2errida and others o++er many deep and su,tle explanations o+ such cases. But this is 1uite di++erent +rom endorsing these kinds o+ practices. 7. Foherent 4tates: !ast$ !resent$ and ;uture$ eds. 2. . ;eng$ 0. &. Olauder$ and =. &. 4trayer ?4ingapore: 5orld 4cienti+ic$ 199C@. M. 0ac1ues 2errida$ 7a dissImination ?!aris: 4euil$ 197:@$ :AEN 2issemination$ tr. Bar,ara 0ohnson ?Fhicago: U o+ Fhicago !$ 19M1@$ :G7. 9. 0ohn )llis$ 9gainst 2econstruction ?!rinceton$ '0.: !rinceton U!$ 19M9@$ >N Bar,ara 0ohnson$ 3'othing ;ails 7ike 4uccess$3 4F) &eports M ?;all 19MG@:9. 1G. 0ac1ues 2errida$ !oints... ?4tan+ord$ Fa.: 4tan+ord U!$ 199E@$ CGC. 11. ad it taken place$ an 3a,use3 or misrepresentation o+ di++erential topology would$ o+ course$ ,e un+ortunate. *t is an extraordinary discipline$ a grand achievement o+ the human mind. (he contri,ution o+ the

;rench mathematicians to the +ounding and development o+ this +ield was extraordinary$ +rom such +ounding +igures as enri !oincarI to the extraordinary contri,utions$ throughout the +irst hal+ o+ this century$ o+ such +igures as )lie Fartan$ 0ean 7eray$ enri Fartan$ 0ean-!ierre 4erre$ &enI (hom$ and many others$ and then ,y their younger +ollowers up to the present. * happen to have studied di++erential topology at the University o+ 7eningrad with Tladimir &okhlin and =ikhail 6romov. =athematicians would know these names and those o+ other +igures .ust mentioned$ and it is a pity that non-mathematicians do not know them ?a su,.ect that would re1uire a separate consideration@. * mention these ;rench names ?mathematicians +rom other countries also made ma.or contri,utions to the +ield@ ,ecause key developments to which they contri,uted took place when yppolite$ a key +igure +or my discussion$ was +irst a student ?at the Pcole 'ormale@ and then a pro+essor at the 4or,onne$ the Pcole 'ormal$ and the FollQge de ;rance$ where many o+ these +igures were yppolite8s +ellow students and then colleagues. 2errida was a student at the Pcole 'ormal ?where he studied with yppolite@ around the time o+ ma.or ,reakthroughs in the +ield$ which were widely discussed in the intellectual community to which he$ yppolite$ and other ma.or philosophical +igures mentioned here ,elonged. (his community also included ma.or historians and philosophers o+ science. * shall +urther consider the signi+icance o+ these +acts later. (he point * want to make here is that the irresponsi,le attitude on 2errida8s part imagined or +antasi%ed ?with no ,asis whatsoever@ ,y 6ross and 7evitt is inconceiva,le +or anyone even remotely +amiliar with the intellectual environment .ust indicated and with yppolite8s and 2errida8s work and attitudes. 1:. 6iven the egregious nature o+ some o+ its mistakes$ it is surprising that they were not discussed ,y reviewers immediately upon the pu,lication o+ the ,ook. *t is also un+ortunate$ since it could diminish some harm done ,y the ,ook. 4ome o+ them should$ o+ course$ have ,een noticed ,e+ore the ,ook was pu,lished$ assuming that it should have ,een pu,lished$ to ,egin with$ given its +laws$ which are unredeema,le regardless o+ the pro,lems one might have with the authors discussed in the ,ook. 'or has it ?or 4okal8s hoax@ much value in terms o+ provoking de,ate$ as some have contended. (here are ,etter ways to engender de,ates--and ,etter de,ates. By now some o+ these pro,lems have ,y ,een pointed out ,y some reviewers and commentators. )ven 4okal acknowledges$ in his more recent commentaries$ that 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook contains 3errors$3 including as concerns their 3topology3 1uotation +rom 2errida and the circumstances o+ his comment on relativity. 5hile this article was ,eing considered +or pu,lication$ an extensive survey o+ such pro,lems has ,een pu,lished ,y &oger art in 3(he ;light +rom &eason: igher 4uperstition and the &e+utation o+ 4cience 4tudies$3 4cience 5ars$ ed. 9ndrew &oss ?2urham$ 'F.: 2uke U!$ 199>@$ :E9-9:. 9s * shall discuss$ these recognitions do not change the situation much. *n contrast to my argument here$ in most cases ,oth critics and even de+enders ?such as

art@ o+ 2errida still think that 2errida8s ?or yppolite8s@ comments should at ,est ,e discounted ?at worst they are seen as inept or senseless@$ rather than understood in the context o+ the relationships ,etween philosophy and science. (he very criti1ue o+ 6ross and 7evitt8s ,ook o+ten amounts to 3yes$ they got a +ew ?or even not so +ew@ things wrong$ ,ut ...3--not the kind o+ change o+ attitude that is$ * think$ necessary here. 1A. Both the essay and the discussion are in (he 7anguages o+ Friticism and the 4ciences o+ =an: (he 4tructuralist Fontroversy. (he essay is also included in 2errida8s 5riting and 2i++erence$ trans. 9lan Bass ?Fhicago: U o+ Fhicago !$ 197M@. 1C. (his point o+ the necessity o+ understanding ,oth terms is clearly ,rought into the +oreground ,y 4teven 5ein,erg in 34teven 5ein,erg &eplies3 ?(he 'ew Hork &eview o+ Books$ Dcto,er A$ 199>$ E>@$ where 5ein,erg also 1uali+ies his original remarks on 2errida somewhat ?without changing his view@ and comments on the context o+ 2errida8s statement in response to the letters pu,lished in 34okal8s oax: 9n )xchange.3 9s will ,e seen$ however$ these 1uali+ications are hardly su++icient to change my argument here. * also leave aside +or the moment the pro,lem o+ translation$ even though it is signi+icant. (hus$ the translation o+ 2errida8s essay pu,lished in the con+erence volume has several pro,lems$ and one is ,etter o++ reading the version pu,lished in 5riting and 2i++erence. *n particular$ the version in the con+erence volume translates 2errida8s .eu as 3+reeplay3--which may lead to a misunderstanding o+ 2errida8s idea o+ play. (ranslation is a crucial concern in considering the circumstantial context o+ the statements at issue. (his context may make any claim concerning these statements$ including any claim to ,e o++ered here$ irreduci,ly tentative. Dn the circumstances themselves$ see (he 7anguages o+ Friticism$ xi-xiii. 1E. (he very disagreement ,etween 4okal8s and 6ross and 7evitt8s interpretations suggests that a more care+ul reading may ,e necessary. D+ course$ 4okal8s article$ ,eing a hoax$ cannot ,e considered as o++ering a meaning+ul interpretation o+ anything$ and it can ,e shown that it misrepresents ?deli,erately or not@ virtually all the signi+icant ideas that it invokes$ certainly 2errida8s. 4okal8s interpretation o+ 2errida8s remark makes no sense whatsoever given yppolite8s 1uestion and 2errida8s essay. *t is strange that several scientists appear to have accepted this interpretation on the ,asis o+ a hoax--an admitted hoax--especially since$ as 5ein,erg points out$ this is not a standard term in physics. (his makes him$ too$ ?in this case more understanda,ly@ pu%%le a,out the phrase and suggest the meaning o+ the phrase as$ again$ re+erring to a numerical constant$ that o+ 'ewton8s constant +iguring in )instein8s theory ?34teven 5ein,erg &eplies$3 E>@. e does not appear to attri,ute this meaning to 2errida$ which indeed would not make any sense. Het another reading proposed ,y some scientists$ that o+ the so-called cosmological constant appearing in certain versions o+ relativistic

cosmology$ makes even less sense$ historically or conceptually. 4uch a constant was indeed introduced ,y )instein in his early cosmological investigations$ ,ut was 1uickly a,andoned ,y him. ? e even spoke o+ its introduction as the greatest scienti+ic mistake o+ his li+e.@ *t was resurrected ,y recent cosmological theories and has had considera,le prominence in recent discussions. *t would$ however$ ,e very unlikely +or it to ,e invoked at the time o+ the yppolite-2errida exchange in 19>>. 'or does it appear to make much sense as yppolite8s re+erence$ given what he says here$ or given 2errida8s discussion in 34tructure$ 4ign$ and !lay3 itsel+. 1>. * am grate+ul to 0oshua 4ocolar$ +rom the !hysics 2epartment at 2uke$ +or his suggestions in clari+ying this particular point and +or productive discussions in general. *t must ,e kept in mind that$ in 'iels Bohr8s +ormulation$ 3the space-time coordination o+ di++erent o,servers never implies reversal o+ what may ,e termed the causal se1uence o+ events3 ?(he !hilosophical 5ritings o+ 'iels Bohr$ A vols. ?5ood,ridge$ Fonn.: Dx Bow !ress$ 19M7@ A::. =ore generally$ in contrast to 1uantum physics$ )instein8s relativity remains a causal and otherwise classical physical theory$ at least special relativity ?since all these 1uestions--causality$ reality$ and so +orth--,ecome more complex in the case o+ )instein8s general relativity$ his theory o+ gravitation@. (his point is intimated ,y yppolite in his remarks$ when he invokes a more radical dislocation o+ classical thinking emerging in modern science ?7anguages o+ Friticism$ :>>@. 17. 9ccording to )instein8s original paper on relativity 3Uur )lektrodynamik ,ewegter O#rper3 -Dn the )lectrodynamics o+ =oving Bodies/$3 one may +irmly con.ecture the +ollowing on the ,asis o+ the availa,le experimental evidence: 3-(/he same laws o+ electrodynamics and optics will ,e valid +or all +rames o+ re+erence +or which the e1uations o+ mechanics hold good. 5e will raise this con.ecture ?the purport o+ which will therea+ter ,e called the 3!rinciple o+ &elativity3@ to the status o+ a postulate$ and also introduce another postulate$ which is only apparently irreconcila,le with the +ormer$ namely that the light is always propagated in empty space with a de+inite speed c which is independent o+ the state o+ motion o+ the emitting ,ody3 ?)instein: 9 Fentenary Tolume$ ed. ). !. ;rench -Fam,ridge$ =ass.: arvard U!$ 1979/$ :M1-M:@. )instein8s 3reconciliation3 o+ these two apparently irreconcila,le postulates within the +ramework o+ special relativity was his great achievement. 1M. (his link would ,e even more pronounced in general relativity$ which connects gravitation to the geometry$ here non-)uclidean ?&iemannian@ geometry$ o+ space-time. *n this case$ the 7orent% invariance can no longer ,e maintained glo,ally ,ut only locally$ correlatively to the +act that in general relativity space can ,e seen as +lat--)uclidean or$ more accurately$ 7orent%ian--only locally. 6lo,ally space is

curved. (he varia,ility and 3the play o+ the world3 ?in the present sense@ is$ however$ not only retained ,ut is enhanced as a result. 2eleu%e8s interest in &iemannian geometry ?in turn much maligned ,ut little understood ,y his critics in the scienti+ic community@ is motivated ,y similar considerations o+ decentering varia,ility. 19. ;riedrich 'iet%sche$ 4Vmtliche 5erke: Oritische 4tudienausga,e$ eds. 6iorgio Folli and =a%%ino =ontinari ?=unich: 2eutscher (aschen,uch TerlagN Berlin and 'ew Hork: 5alter de 6ruyter$ 19MM@ A: E>CN (he 6ay 4cience$ trans. 5alter Oau+mann ?'ew Hork: Tintage$ 197C@$ :E> ?translation modi+ied@. :G. =ichel 4erres and Bruno 7atour$ Fonversations on 4cience$ Fulture$ and (ime$ trans. &oxanne 7apidus ?9nn 9r,or$ =ich.: U o+ =ichigan !$ 199E@$ AE. :1. Flaude 7Ivi-4trauss$ (he )lementary 4tructures o+ Oinship$ trans. ames . Bell$ 0ohn &. von 4turmer$ and &odney 'eedham ?Boston$ Beacon !ress$ 19>9@$ ::1-:7. * am grate+ul to 2avid &eed$ +rom the =athematics 2epartment at 2uke$ +or reminding me a,out this +act and +or most help+ul discussions. ::. * here use this$ ,y now complicated$ term 3deconstruction3 in a more limited and more rigorous sense o+ the analytical practice o+ 2errida8s own ?mostly earlier@ work$ such as 34tructure$ 4ign$ and !lay.3 (his is not the place to consider the 3continuities3 and 3discontinuities3 in 2errida8s work over last thirty years$ nor the di++erences in the ways this work is received on di++erent sides o+ the 9tlantic. (hese +actors are relevant to recent de,ates$ ,ut they would not a++ect my argument here. :A. 2i++erences o+ that type--those ,etween the centering o+ a given theoretical +ramework$ say$ around a given concept$ and the centering o+ the structure?s@ constructed or investigated within this +ramework--appear to ,e on yppolite8s mind +rom the outset o+ and throughout his remarks$ ,eginning with his invocation o+ alge,ra. :C. 9lan 2. 4okal$ 39 !hysicist )xperiments with Fultural 4tudies$3 7ingua ;ranca ?=ay/0une 199>@$ >:->C. =y limits here do not permit me to discuss relevant speci+ic portions o+ these works$ which one might consider appropriate$ given my strong criticism here. 5hile * would stand ,y my assessments o+ the particular authors .ust mentioned$ the reader is invited to read my ela,oration as a general appeal to a more serious engagement$ however critical it may ,e$ with the work o+ 2errida and other contemporary thinkers that may ,e invoked here.