We said yesterday that the essential function of grammar is to constitute the human voice in a particular semantic instrument: language.

Already, Plato, in the PHAEDRUS: A divine man of god understands voice to be infinite, un-enterable, un-analyzable. For this reason — to enter it, for purpose of analysis –he introduces grammar into it. Plato thinks this is a bad idea: memory will degrade.

Ancient grammarians had the idea that grammata (letters) were invented to SAVE the voice from oblivion. This RELAY — voice to grammata — is what Hegel calls a *aufghebon*. The voice is cancelled and conserved in writing. You will recognize the structure of exclusive inclusion: like Aristotle, *zoe* (*oikos*) is excluded from the *polis*, but on that exclusion, the *polis* is founded: on presupposition of *zoe* political life is defined.

— *Phone* (voice) is abolished but through grammar conserved in logos —


At the beginning of OF GRAMMATOLOGY, Derrida criticizes Western metaphysics by giving primacy to writing. This on the reading that the tradition gives primacy to the voice. But as we saw yesterday, in the quotation from Aristotle — the sounds uttered by the voice are symbols of states of the soul etc — not the voice but gramma are a the origin. Derrida’s critique of metaphysics is based on an inadequate reading of Aristotle: metaphysics is always already a grammatology. The gramma and not the voice is th negative foundation.

This is why Derrida could only produce a deconstruction, not an archeology. An archeology opens access to the present, but a deconstruction will never do this — it will reach only a difference. This is a political limit of Derrida’s thought: the origin is always in the position of a trace.

Archaeology and deconstruction are two different methodologies corresponding to two different philosophical presuppositions. This is not to say that one is right or wrong; probably two different forms of relation to the past.


The inscription of grammata into the voice, making the voice analyzable, is a historical operation. It didn’t take-place once and for all, but is still in progress: pay attention to the history of Western reflection on language. The status of the grammata changes. This is evident when we examine historical attempts to grasp the situation of grammata in the voice. This is what we will do now…

PHONETICS: The science which deals with sounds of language.

This science is essentially grounded on analysis of MODE of articulation of sounds: how sound is produced by the organs.

In human physiology there is no organ dedicated to the production of sounds. The ones used serve other functions. IE, the mouth is for eating. Language is not inscribed physiologically on the body.

The history of phonetics is an incredibly precise attempt to grasp the articulation of sounds: how the tongue forms sounds, the contractions of muscles, etc. This collapsed with modern neurology: with damage to an organ, the speaking subject produces the same sounds using other organs. This was the end of phonetics grounded on organs of articulation.


Now the problem, how to analyze SOUND WAVES to register/record sounds. The point: as the scientific analysis of sound waves became more refined — it became more difficult to define a single grammata: if you pay attention, you’ll never be able to identify where one sound begins and another ends.

In the act of pronouncing a word, from an acoustic point of view, the sounds are so entangled it is impossible to distinguish one sound from another. You can analyze sound waves, but grammata as units are no longer there. On this impossibility to distinguish grammata in organs or acoustics, modern phonology was born.


Phonology accepts Saussue’s distinction between *parole* and *langue*. Phonetics deals with *parole*: concrete, physical. Phonology deals with the sound of *langue* (that’s a paradoxical expression): psychological or social (this addition is meaningful).

“Phonemes”: phonological units of *langue*. Phonemes cannot ‘ve analyzed further: place of grammata: place of phonemes. One must avoid to hypostatize phonemes in a reality. Don’t conceive of them as thing speakers have and use to construct their speech. They have neither physical nor psychic reality. Their place is impossible to locate. Roman Jacobson: the place of phonemes is not a problem of linguistics, but an ontological problem. Phonemes are meaningless but they allow for meaning. The French linguist Breille makes a good pun: “Phonology is the *phonos* (Greek for murder) of *phone*.” The status of phonemes has been compared to the value of money: neither physical or psychic reality, but abstract reality, yet without money the state could not exist.


Why have I given this history? To show that one cannot really identify what gramma is. Where is the phoneme? Once divided, *langue* and *parole*, the point of articulation has been historically constituted by sciences — but it’s an impossible point. The phone is meant to serve as point of articulation, but it is impossible to locate the phoneme.



Would it be possible to find a way to be in the voice?

A commentary on Aristotle: He says that names and verbs are produced by our intelligence as MATTER. What can be MATTER? First, let’s ask, what does it mean to be IN? — since gramma are IN the voice. In the fourth book of PHYSICS, Aristotle asks, In which sense do we say that something is IN something else? He hen gives four meanings:

1)part to whole: finger in hand.
2)species/genus: man in animal.
3)location: water in the cup.
4)To be in, as form is in the matter.

He then quotes Plato’s thesis in TIMAES. Place and matter are one. Plato calls this CHORA. He tries to define this: a theory of place that is also a theory of matter. It is a complicated point — one of the most obscure chapters in the history of Greek philosophy…

Plato first defines two kinds of being, (1) INTELLIGIBLE (eternal: perceived by intellect) and (2) SENSIBLE. He the adds a THIRD: CHORA. He tries to define it, a paradoxical definition, neither intelligible now sensible, but it can be TOUCHED only by a HYBRID REASON accompanied by the ABSENCE OF SENSATION. It is perceived WITH INSENSIBILITY. So…

The first: insensible
The second: sensible
The third: perceived with the absence of sensation

Plato tries to resolve the separation between ONE and TWO (*chorismos*) with CHORA — a pun.

Aristotle interprets this as a theory of matter. Matter: something like space — the pure fact that something is there. (Later, matter is interpreted as the pure fact of extension).

Why the Platonic distinction between two kinds of matter (intelligible and sensible) — each has a CHORA: the intelligible is IN the sensible, and the sensible is IN the intelligible…

MY QUESTION: Does Plato, or do you, ever make the pun, CHORA/KORE (Persephone)? Because Chora moves between the two, and Kore does as well, between the surface of earth and Hades.

AGAMBEN’S RESPONSE: There are many puns in Plato, but he never makes this one. But YOU can make this pun.

…if we transpose the problem of CHORA to our problem: voice is matter/chora of language. Matter, an ex-TENSION. It is also IN-tension.

Giorgio Colli, one of the mos interesting Italian philosophers of the 20th century, has a definition of CONTACT. He calls CONTACT not the point where two things touch, but two points are in contact only when separated by the absence of representation. Contact: suddenly a void of representation — when representation fails. If a representation is there, you have only a relationship. Contact is more interesting than relationship. And, by the way, IN LIFE, contacts are more interesting than relationships. Chora and contact: two possible ways to try to think the place of the voice.



Aristotle tried to define what we do when we speak as a language. And we tried to explain how men achieve to construct such a thing as language — to construct a connection between living beings and language, nature and history. GRAMMAR is a FUNDAMENTAL DISCIPLINE. Here the articulation of animal/man, nature/culture is achieved. Is that clear?

In DE INTERPRETATION, Aristotle constructs language by locating logos in the *phone* (voice). This to ensure the relation between *phone* and logos. THE RELATION BETWEEN VOICE AND LANGUAGE COINCIDES WITH DEFINITION OF HUMAN NATURE. Man is the animal who not only constructed language in this way, but who had to articulate his culture with his life — with his reality as a living being. WE MAY BE IN A CULTURE DEFINED BY THE IMPOSSIBLE PROBLEM TO GROUND LANGUAGE IN VOICE — TO GROUND HISTORY/CULTURE IN NATURE.


Recently a group of scholars at MIT have published a theory: human language is defined by the COMBINATION of two elements:

2) More lexical/semantic — sometimes in primates.

What is SEPARATED in animals is COMBINED in human language: it is both 1) and 2).

~~~ My own MYTHOLOGY, NOT a theory…

Imagine the primate who became homo sapiens to already have language, and the movement of anthropogenesis to coincide with his BECOMING AWARE of having language — he SEPARATED and EXTERIORIZES his language as a TOOL. He can transform his language as a tool, not just immediately express himself. Thus he began to observe and transform his tool, a process still in progress. But this also meant: This primate had to SHIFT language from an ENDOSOMATIC to an EXOSOMATIC transmission.

Insects developed in some way language strongly, but kept it endosomatic: a complex social organization transmitted endosomatically. Humans transmit it exosomatically — thus there is a history of language. This also means: man is A BEING WITH ACCESS TO HIS NATURE ONLY HISTORICALLY. Man cannot have immediate access to it: MAN HAS TO PASS THROUGH HISTORY. Language was expelled outside then inscribed in voice, in grammata.

Until now, language has been exteriorized…perhaps now this is changing…perhaps now this process has reached a CRISIS: language is going back to nature. We have seen a transition from HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS, which analyzed language historically — but this science of language has ended, and been replaced by CHOMPSKIAN LINGUISTICS: the GENETIC INSCRIPTION of language: language no longer essentially historical, but biological/nativistic: fixing the historical object in a code. But I am not competent in this. It is just a mythology that I am giving…


I’ve said, there will be no conclusion, but an abandonment — a right moment to abandon this…

The problem of voice COINCIDES with the problem of human nature. HUMAN NATURE HAS THE FORM OF THE ARTICULATION OF TWO HETEROGENEOUS ELEMENTS. So, it should be clear, what was at stake: The problem of human nature. The attempt to fix/construct this relation (*phone*/logos) coincides with the attempt to fix/construct/rule/govern human nature.

The problem of the relation between *phone*/logos is essentially a political problem. It coincides with attempt by man to master and dominate his nature.

Biopolitics: to rule the relation between*phone*/logos. The destiny of biopolitics coincides with the possibility or impossibility of such a task.

Now let’s discuss…

Voice functions as a WAY OUT of the problem (of articulation). Not a solution to the problem.


Holderlin defines caesura as what breaks the flow of representation — what appears in this caesura is interruption itself: we become AWARE that we are in representation. Artists show you a picture — “Look at this!” They ask that you interrupt your vision, to perceive your vision itself.


I have always said, We have not to found an institute of high studies, but of LOW studies.


A real archeology does not go back to the origin — it goes to the present. Perhaps a while ago there was a real voice — we don’t know. What we have is the fracture. The voice that will be present will be what results from the deactivation of the dichotomy, not an original which we can reach.

*audience applause*

–Never applaud to nothing.