The Turning Point

I was recently joking about the use of a “turn” to describe theoretical movements or epochs, like the linguistic turn and the more recent ontological turn.  I was happy to find Derrida articulating the same point as my hokey-pokey joke: the point is to question the very idea that we (who? humans? animals? beings?) are beings that can define and situate ourselves in a “turn” or some such epochal shift or historical mutation.

I would therefore hesitate just as much to say that we are living through a historical turning point.  The figure of the turning point implies a rupture or an instantaneous mutation whose model or figure remains, precisely, to be questioned.  As for history, historicity, even historicality, those motifs belonging precisely—as we shall see in detail—to this auto-definition, this auto-apprehension, this auto-situation of man or of the human Dasein as regards what is living and animal life; they belong to this auto-biography of man, which I wish to call into question today. (Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, p. 24)

4 thoughts on “The Turning Point

  1. “Turning” is how reality unfolds. “Wyrd” in the Germanic philosophy means to turn. Multiple threads come together then turn in on themselves to create a new reality moment to moment.

    1. Nice! Wyrd is a great word. It shares the same root as “verse,” which also has connotations of turning (e.g., reverse, introvert). Lyrical verse (i.e., poetry) is about turning a phrase. The whole cosmos is one process of turning, one great refrain, one verse: uni-verse. The word “trope” is relevant here, too, as it also refers to a turning: a heliotropic plant turns toward sunlight, and a metaphor is a trope that turns the meaning of a word. Trope, verse, wyrd…one good turn deserves another.

  2. Derrida’s comment is reminiscent of a similar observation made by Blanchot in The Infinite Conversation (first published in French in 1969):

    “Will you allow as a certainty that we are at a turning point?
    — If it is a certainty it is not a turning. The fact of our belonging to this moment at which a change of epoch, if there is one, is being accomplished also takes hold of the certain knowledge that would want to determine it, making both certainty and uncertainty inappropriate. Never are we less able to get around ourselves than at such a moment, and the discrete force of the turning point lies first in this.” (trans. Susan Hanson, University of Minnesota Press, 1993, p. 264)

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