The Logic of Without

Language fails us at many levels. This does not stop us from speaking. Our thinking, speaking and writing need language. Wittgenstein has famously said, ‘whereof we cannot speak, thereof we have to keep quiet.’ Where we cannot speak we babble. Our silence is also a mode of speaking. It speaks louder than our words. Silence speaks without words. Derrida calls us to avoid speaking: denials. To speak for nothing is not not to speak. Derrida challenges the shallowness of apophatic discourse like negative theology and invites it to become more radical. Negative theology is a discourse or a mode of thinking that tries to avoid thinking and speaking of God without falling into the error of ‘naming something one actually brings into existence, something which has nothing to do with the Unnameable ‘. Paradoxically, negative theology speaks about the inadequacy of language using language. Its logic pushes negation to a hyperbolic limit and ends up with God as the guarantor of negativity.

Negative theology is one example of our way of thinking what one thing is not or cannot be. It is bit Kantian in charecter. It makes the distinction between the thing-in-itself and the thing-as-spoken/thought by us in language. The thing-in-itself remains transcendent and cannot be appropriated by language and discourse. This mode of thinking negates everything that a thing-in-itself cannot be. This is via negativa of our thought, speech and writing. The inability of language to capture the thing-in-itself in the Kantian sense does not mean we speak of nothing. Even when we take up the discourse of negative theology, one has already spoken to indicate that one is not speaking. This is why there cannot be absolute negative discourse. Negative theology seeks to negate thinking, speaking and writing about God but instead ends up denigrating its discourse, thereby ends us affirming its discourse. This is why Derrida is right in claiming that negative theology is not negative enough.

Our thinking and saying of what a thing is not and cannot follow a logic that goes beyond our familiar either/ or thinking. We may name the logic it follows as the logic of without. St. Augustine for example uses it when he says, ‘God is wise without wisdom’. We may also say, ‘God is powerful without power’. This logic seems to empty the meaning of terms while all the time affirming them without really emptying them. In some way the logic of without stays between and beyond the polarities of our thought. There is therefore simultaneous thinking of the two poles of the polarities. There is simultaneous de-appropriation and re-appropriation of the two sides that are usually thought of as siding against each other. The logic of without thinks the two sides of the polarities on the same side. It keeps them beyond the dialectics of the polarities and opens them to a dialogue. We are therefore enabled to move beyond the closed structures of dialecticism and come to the openness of the dialogue. The logic of without is thinking negativity without negativity. Derrida favours the logic of without.

The logic of without is allied to the logic of Khora. Plato’s Timeous presents Khora neither as a form nor as its copy/ sensible thing. It is an inter-mediatory space that is as old as the world of forms. As an in-between space, Khora does not belong to becoming/ sensible world nor to being/ world of forms/ world ideas/ nor to non-being/ void. Khora defies our thinking and speaking of the world in terms of Platonic dualisms (material and ideal). This means it transcends our either/ or logic, a logic of yes and no. Khora is a receptacle but it is one that is different from the usual sense of the word. It does not have meaning in itself but becomes all without becoming anything. It receives all without becoming anything. This shows that the Khora logic is in alliance with the logic of without. Khora is not a place but is a spacing. It is amorphous and is marked by everything that is inscribed in it without itself being affected. This means Plato’s Khora that assist the Demiurge in shaping or ordering the sensible world in the image and likeness of the forms of the ideal world follows the logic of without as it receives the forms of the world of ideas which simultaneously vanish without leaving a trace. We therefore can think Khora as one that makes room for all our thinking, speaking and writing without actually being part of it all. To put it differently, Khora receives all our mythic and ontologic stories and resembles them but is not the object of any tale.

Khora, therefore, is the site where our thinking, speaking and writing happens. It is an enabling site for thinking, speaking and writing. It receives everything without making anything it’s own. It is giving without giving. It is a pure gift. Khora, therefore, follows the impossible. Hence, strictly speaking, what we called the logic of without is the logic of Khora. It enables us to think religion without religion as John Caputo does or it enables us to think messianism without messiah as Derrida does. We need the logic of Khora to think God, Humans and the World. All the three are on the same side. We cannot think that they are siding against each other. The side of God is on the side of Humans and the World. Thus, the logic of Khora can open us to leap into new ways of thinking the relations of God, Humans and the world. It can free us from the traces of metaphysics of presence and dualist logic that fires our conflicts and threatens peace. It can enable us to think that which we keep apart using the either/ or Aristotelian logic together. It is a logic of addition and multiplication not the logic of subtraction and division. It takes us to think and do the impossible. It bends the principle of contradiction as well as sufficient reason. It enables us to speak without speaking, write without writing and so on. It takes us between and beyond the poles of either/ or thinking. It is a logic that brings to light the mystery of reality and saves us from the narcissism of the drive to have mastery over God, Humans and the World.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao