In the past day, I’ve come across two essays by Schelling specialists (one in German, the other writing in English) who want to make allegiances between the late Schelling and Levinas–and keep on insisting that Levinas valorizes something like a Schellingian notion of the eternal, despite all the myriad places Levinas opposes himself to the ontotheologies of the eternal (infinity is not the eternal in Levinas or anyone else).
Then there’s this wonderful footnote in Bruce Matthews’ otherwise helpful introduction to English translation of The Grounding of Positive Philosophy (SUNY Press, 2007):
Contrary to Derrida and other Post-Structuralists, Saussure called upon the subject as the central agent responsible for providing an actual ground [my emphasis] for self-consciousness and meaning. According to the official version of Saussure’s Cours, it is the individual person who speaks words: “The vocal sound is not a word except to the exact, constant extent that a meaning is attached to it […]. Though is what delimits units; sound itself does not delimit them in advance; there is always a relation to thought”…Derrrida based his readings on the vulgate version of Saussure’s Cours … In this inaccurate version of Saussure’s lectures, the role and importance of the thinking and speaking subject hardly even appear. In the quote above, taken from the critical edition of Saussure’s works, the significance of a meaning conferring consciousness clearly emerges. In light of the fact that the critical edition had been available since 1957, that is, since before Derrida began to deconstruct the Structuralists, Derrida was repeatedly challenged to correct his reading of Saussure. Unfortunately he never addressed the issue” (p. 217, n. 47).
Quite damning: Derrida was not only wrong, but [breathe deeply for the concern trolling] “unfortunately” refused to correct himself. This all to remark in the introduction that Saussure’s speaking subject, like Schelling, is “capable of making positive determinations of meaning through its power to make assertions,” thus getting out of the negative relation of signs in his “concept of language as a diacritical system of signs” (p. 24). Again pretty damning, if not for the fact that Derrida produces numerous quotations in De la grammatologie and invented the term “phonocentrism” for exactly Saussure’s attempt to absolve “consciousness” of any place within the system of signs he portrays. Otherwise put, the assertion that Saussure’s speaking subject is “capable of making positive determinations of meaning through its power to make assertions” is as good a definition as I’ve seen for what the early Derrida means by the term in all of his works of the period. Why bring Derrida up for critique–with the ironic added touch of suggesting shoddy scholarship at the same time–if you don’t know the work you’re criticizing, which is all about speaking/writing and the privileging of the former?