Commentary on chapter one of Given Time – Part Four

This is a transcription of the fourth part of my commentary on chapter one of Jacques Derrida’s Given Time: 1. Counterfeit Money. Presented at the first meeting of the Art & Theory Reading Group’s ”Art as Gift” project, at Wollaton Street Studios, 26th January, 2017. Read part two here. Part three, here.
Derek Hampson, convenor, Art and Theory Reading Group

Forgetting
Derrida restates the problem of the gift on p.16, paragraph 2:
“For there to be gift, it is necessary that the gift not even appear, that it not be perceived or received as a gift.”
This leads Derrida say that for there to be gift both the donor and donee must:
“Forget it right away [à l’instant]” (ibid)
What does Derrida understand by forgetting? (Read from “Forget it right away [à l’instant]” half way down para 2 p. 16 to “For there to be forgetting…there must be gift.” (17, para 2))
The relationship between the two is reciprocal:
“forgetting in the condition of the gift, and the gift is in the condition of forgetting” top of page 18

Derrida then detours towards Heidegger and his “question of being” a question which Heidegger says has been forgotten, which allows Derrida to link time to the gift and both to a:
“singular thinking of forgetting.” (19, para 2)
(Pages 19-21 connects Being to the gift and is an area we have already covered in my introduction). Derrida returns to forgetting on page 23, paragraph 2. (Read paragraph 3 & 4, ps. 23-24: “As the condition…”). This brings us to the next meeting’s theme: Marcel Mauss on the gift and two questions “that will orient our reading.” (25, para 2)
“How is one to legitimate the translations thanks to which Mauss circulates…what he understands by gift?” (ibid)
“What and whom is Mauss talking about in the end” (26, para 2)

Derrida now focusses on the impossibility of the gift, at the bottom of page 26, stating it as an aporia:
“If the gift appears…as gift…it annuls itself.” (p26-27)
Acknowledging again:
“that the structure of this impossible gift is also that of Being.” (27, para 4)
On page 29, para 2 he goes on to say that even if “the gift is another name of the impossible, we still think it, we name it, we desire it. We intend it. And this even if or because or to the extent that we never encounter it, we never know it, we never verify it, we never experience it in its present existence or in its phenomenon.” (29, para 2)

Derrida says, There is a gap between “gift and economy” as there is between:
“thought, language, desire and knowledge, philosophy, science.” (29)

In philosophy this discourse of opposites is usually expressed in the dialectic, a process of reasoning expressed in terms of the thesis and antithesis, leading to a synthesis of the two. Derrida says we cannot simply reproduce this “critical machinery.” Neither can we reject it. This returns us to the start of this presentation when he asks that we enter into an “effort of thinking” the gift from within the seeming impossibility of the problem in which: “It is a matter…of responding faithfully but also as rigorously as possible both to the injunction or the order of the gift as well as to injunction or the order of meaning.”

It is almost as if we need to live the implications of the gift structure and its opposing demands of “thought, language, desire and knowledge, philosophy, science.” (Read from: “Know still what…” bottom of page 30)

On page 30, paragraph three, Derrida begins to offer an account of how these opposites, might be brought together. First asking about the gift and its relationship to the circle, invoked in the figure of the cycle of lectures that Derrida is engaging in [and the cycle of meetings we are undertaking!?]. The need to apply reason to the question of the gift, leading to a series of questions. First asking what drives him (and us) to: “speak and to render an account of the desire to render an account?”

The giving of the lecture is defined in terms asking what drives this need to give (a lecture) rendering “an account of the gift.” (31, para 3). His speaking is a verbal response to the call of the gift: “that forbids one to forgive whoever does not know how to give.” (31, para 3). Such as the protagonist of Baudelaire’s Counterfeit Money – read Counterfeit Money, page 31 to the end of the chapter.

Read part two of this presentation here, read part three here

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