Pakistan Research Repository


Raza, Ambreen (1998) THE CRITIQUE OF METAPHYSICS IN POST-STRUCTURALISM. PhD thesis, University of the Punjab, Lahore.



Metaphysics as the study of Being qua Being is concerned with the understanding of the nature, meaning, structure and principles of reality. In its search of reality, it puts to scrutiny all basic concepts and underlying assumptions of thought. Though metaphysics has always claimed to be the queen of all sciences yet it has had its staunch adversaries in every age like Hume, Kant, August Comte, More and the Logical Positivists while the latest death knell has been tolled by Post-structuralism, a radical philosophy that has emerged from amongst the ashes of Phenomenology and structuralism Phenomenology sees the world as the world of and for consciousness while consciousness is the consciousness of something other than itself viz, consciousness of the world. In this way, Phenomenology leads to the identification of meaning with Being; Reality or meaning is to be discovered in the intentional relationship between the world of senses and the mind. In contrast earlier philosophies, it does not look reality in the substance without its relation to other things but tries to relocate that unadulterated focal point of intersection between the objects of the world and the consciousness of man in which the dichotomy between subject and object of consciousness has not taken place as yet. This focal point is the reality or meaning. As meaning can only be expressed language, hence introduction of language in philosophy soon led to the search for those unknown structures of language which lie beneath and moral, philosophical or scientific discourse, This took the form of structuralism. Saussure’s is an important name in structuralism. His central thesis is the distinction between langue and parole Language refers to the overall system of all actual and potential language usages while parole is any single language system, and actual instance of concrete language. His Structuralism has a formal relation of one to one correspondence between the signifier and the signified. This is in sharp contrast to Post-structuralism in which signifier is more important than the signified. During its intellectual journey, structuralism soon transformed into Post-Structuralism and led to the critique of sell, meaning reason, truth and metra-narratives. Post-structuralism's critique of self is best expressed in the Lacanian psycho-analysis which deconstructs the age old belief of human reality or the self. What it offers instead is a fragmented self which far from overcoming the unconscious desires, helps to get rid of an integrated self. Lacan holds that human desires require linguist structure to operate and that the notion of self is a linguistic construct, i.e. it is through signifies like MY, ME as opposed to YOU, YOUR, THEY, OTHERS that the concept of self created. Derrida is an exponent of the critique of meaning in Post-structuralism. He dismisses the traditional view that meaning is expressed by way of language in favour of the claim that it is language through which meaning is constructed, unlike structuralism's concept of one to one correspondence between the signifier and the signified. Post-structuralism seen to inherent relation between the two. This result in a critique of meaning peculiar to Post-structuralism through its concert or floating signifiers having no correspondence with any outside reality/meaning at all at. As meaning is not present in the sign which is a fixed relationship between the signifier and the signified, so research for it is futile. Meaning is absent from the sign also because meaning of a sign is in reference to what a sign is not rather than what it is. A sign is, thus, always under erasure as it contains the traces of another sign in it. As meaning can never be fully gathered, there is a spillage of meaning which is termed as dissemination. Meaning hops from one signifier to another without ever coming to a stand still. The critique of reason which comes to the front scene in Post-structuralism is advocated by Michel Foucault, He seeks to explore the hidden structures of knowledge which determine all our experiences and perceptions. He is interested in those phenomena which are forsaken by reason such as chance, madness and abnormality. Foucault brings forth the concepts of episteme, archaeology and genealogy to put his point through. Episteme is any period’s code of knowledge. Archaeology unearths that infrastructure which give arise to given episteme. Genealogy is a way of separating the present from the past with the underlying assumption that history is not continuous and that the present does not inevitably flow out of the past. Between any two given epistemes there is a gap or rupture. He further believes that individuals are determined by power relations and that the interaction of power and knowledge defines all social realities. Iean-Francois Lyotard’s critique of metanarrative and his views on the changing nature of knowledge in the Post-modern computerized societies is yet another perspective form which critique of metaphysics is Post-structuralism may be understood. Metanarratives are ground explanatory systems and are sine qua non for metaphysics. Hence any critique of them is, ipso facto, the critique of metaphysics itself. Althusser’s philosophy rests upon the critiques of ideologies and of the autonomous subject. Ideologies are bourgeois creations which act as categories and impose their own worldviews on all. One of their direct consequences is emergence of the autonomous subject or the free individual that freely enters the subjugation of the society. Post-structuralism’s distrust of metanarratives is the reason why individual Post-structuralists do not offer any unified theory which makes their already elusive philosophies all the difficult to comprehend. As far as individual philosophers are concerned it may be criticized by pointing out that reconstructing the self from the perspective of language, he has not deconstructed self in the true spirit. Though a linguistic construct, the self is still there. In case of Derrida, we find that meaning is shifting and unstable, hence there cannot be any truth or reality at all. Foucault’s views present all modern life as hollow, flat and sterile. There is no freedom because man is determined by power relations. Rationally is a way of enslaving others. As there is no progress in history, there cannot be any hope in the future. Lyotard’s view that narrative knowledge cannot be translated into computer language is also open to debate since latest technology has shown that as a medium, computer can store any and every sort of knowledge. Althusser’s major problem is that though he raises the slogan of back to Marx and declares that Marxism is a self-sufficient philosophy, yet the translates Marx in terms of post-structuralism. Henceforth, both his claims get contradicted. To sum up, by considering reality to be a Linguistic construct, Post-structuralism deconstructs metaphysics in a unique way hitherto unknown in the philosophical quarters.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Metaphysics, Structuralism, Consciousness, Philosophy, Phenomenology, Western Thought
Subjects:Social Sciences(g) > Philosophy(g14)
ID Code:354
Deposited By:Mr Ghulam Murtaza
Deposited On:30 Jun 2006
Last Modified:04 Oct 2007 21:00

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