‘The Tiny Lag’ by Mladen Dolar

I will start with perhaps the most famous philosophical statement regarding the borders of language. This is of course Wittgenstein’s notorious thesis from his Tractatus (1921), one of the most influential books of modern philosophy: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” (5.6) I will not pursue any scholarly exegesis of Wittgenstein, but this sentence nevertheless provides a necessary and unavoidable point of reference. Whatever particular content we might give to the notions of „language‟ and „world‟, which remain undetermined and hazy in this very frequently quoted adage, the statement immediately confronts us with the idea that the experience of language imposes a limit, it limits our experience of the world while at the same time structuring it and thus making it accessible in the first place. At the minimal, if we follow this logic, language imposes a constraint which is both enabling and disabling. It enables our access to the world by providing its mapping, while limiting this access by its own configuration, and for whatever doesn’t fit this configuration there stands a warning „access denied‟. Our world appears as limited, and its limit is our language, the very tool that opens up a world for us. To be sure, the statement tacitly assumes a number of suppositions, and first of all that „language‟ and „the world‟ stand in a relation of one to one mapping. Language refers to the world, and the world is what language refers to, nothing less and nothing more. This stands in line with Wittgenstein’ concept of language where a proposition is ultimately, to make it quick, a picture of reality (4.01, “Der Satz ist ein Bild der Wirklichkeit”, “The proposition is a picture of reality”),[1] or more precisely, our thought consists in making pictures of facts, of the „states of affairs‟ which form the world, and thought can only be expressed and articulated in language. This statement further stands in line with two basic theses which summarize Wittgenstein’s endeavour and which he succinctly states from the outset, in the Preface: “What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” He will repeat this latter thesis in the notorious last sentence of the book, turning it into a proverb.

But if we are to follow this „picture theory of language‟, if we are to espouse this one to one mapping between the appropriate use of language and the world, the propositions being mapped on the „states of affairs‟ (Sachverhalte) which form the world, what would then be beyond the limit that language imposes? Beyond the limits of the world as enforced by language? Can one have an inkling of it? Is there a world beyond the language world, can one traverse its limits? Is there the unspeakable? Wittgenstein has a clear and simple answer to this: “There is indeed the inexpressible (Unaussprechliches). This shows itself (das zeigt sich – this can also mean „it is what can be shown‟); it is the mystical (das Mystische).” (6.522) So there is a beyond, unstructured, inarticulate, mute, indecipherable, it pertains to the mystical. All that can be said about it is that nothing can be said about it. Indeed, whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent. One can savour it in silence, one can be overwhelmed by its mystical powers. It shows itself, and at the most it can be shown, silently – but is showing a language? Is pointing to it a proposition, although wordless? Does one make a statement by merely pointing? As an aside, among the philosophers Hegel proposed that showing is indeed a language at its minimal, the mere act of reference, enough for a minimal linguistic structure, it cannot avoid the pitfalls of language by remaining mute, and Hegel will make an astounding analysis of it (in the opening chapter on sense certainty in the Phenomenology of Spirit). I can add that Wittgenstein himself, in his later years, will deal with this at length in his book On certainty and make an argument in strange and unexpected congruence with Hegel, but already at the core of the Tractatus there is a key opposition between saying and showing.

This would be the first way of conceiving the borders of language: the strange way that Wittgenstein pits against each other on the one hand the highly structured logical procedures which his book spells out, the complex rules that the logical structure of language must follow in order to make sense – in order that what can be said can be said clearly, and only what can be said clearly can raise a claim to truth – and on the other hand the mystical experience of which one cannot possibly speak, at least not in a meaningful and coherent way, not clearly, and what is not stated clearly cannot possibly pretend to have a truth value. And for Wittgenstein most problems of traditional philosophy pertain to the improper use of language: things were not said clearly, for if they were then most of these problems would immediately evaporate. This coexistence of two worlds, the one we can speak about and the one we can’t, has been amply and laboriously commented upon by a vast host of scholars. I will not dwell on it, except for adding another quote: “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.” (6.44) So the very existence of the world is what escapes language, it points to the impossibility that one could ever, from the inside of world and language, endow the world with sense and grasp it in its totality.[2] And neither can one account for the logical form itself – the logical form which makes it possible for language to refer to the world of facts – for to account for it one would have to step outside of language (for “otherwise logic must get outside the limits of the world” and “consider these limits from the other side also”, 5.61).[3] Hence: “The subject doesn’t belong to the world but it is a limit to the world.” (5.632) So the subject stands on the very limit between the speakable and the unspeakable. What cannot be said, standing beyond the limit of language, is at the same time not somewhere far away, but stands at the closest and points to what is most important.

But there is another side to this. One can point out that the black abyss of mysticism which opens on the verge of Tractatus as the unspeakable stands in obvious opposition with the entire vast tradition of mysticism (les béguines, Hadewijch of Antwerpen, Bernard de Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross etc.) which has not heeded Wittgenstein’s advice, anything but. For the common and conspicuous feature of virtually all mystics is that they wouldn’t keep silent at all, they cannot stop talking about their mystical experience, it is something they have to bear witness to, provide a testimony, endlessly, they can’t keep their mouth shut for a moment and savour their communion in silence. They were the arch-anti-Wittgensteinians. The mystical propels endless speech, but certainly not of the kind Wittgenstein had in mind, for it is anything but stated clearly and logically structured. (Lacan, who was very interested in mysticism, despite his firm stance for the Galilean science, says somewhere that these are the best things one can read – to which, he adds in a quip, one should add his own Écrits, in the same line.)[4] So the bulk of this tradition, and it is a formidable and voluminous tradition, presents a counterpart to, or a reverse side of, Wittgenstein’s prohibition. But this prohibition itself is very paradoxical, for it prohibits something that is stated as impossible – „whereof one cannot speak‟: why would one prohibit something that one cannot do anyway? If one cannot speak about it, why banish it? The trouble is that one can, and the mystical tradition is based on the tenet that only what lies beyond the limit of language is worth speaking about. Only what cannot be said logically and clearly has the value of truth, there is a non-linguistic disclosure of truth that relentlessly impels us to speak in vast quantities. This may be seen as the second paradigm, the inverse model of the borders of language – the abyss beyond language propelling speech.

I have googled this sentence, „The limits of my language …‟, and I was astounded to get 38.900.000 hits. There is something perplexing and ironical in this: the statement which proclaims the limits, of language and of the world, actually produces something like a limitless web of virtual singularities. Where are the limits, of both language and world, in this endlessly expanding virtual world we inhabit? One could spend many lifetimes exploring just the receding limits of words and the world that this one statement produces. The unfathomable 39 million points, a quantity that boggles imagination, are like a strange counterpart to a mystical experience „beyond limit‟, its modern day version. 39 million stands for boundless, the limitless, the infinite multiplication. Even better, with „Whereof one cannot speak …‟ one gets 111.000.000 hits – what one cannot speak about is obviously the most spoken about topic, testifying to the simple fact that nothing incites more speech than the limits of speech. There is nothing like the unspeakable to make us speak endlessly, ad nauseam.

The English version of this famous sentence, „The limits of my language …‟ is usually quoted in an inaccurate form. The original says: “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.” „The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.‟ Mean, not are, not the same thing. There is like a cleft between being and meaning that opens up here and seems to be „lost in translation‟. There is again like an abyss which one can put in these terms: does meaning cover being? Is there a being outside meaning? Does one make the same claim, or a stronger or a weaker claim, saying the one or the other? But this ambivalence doesn’t refer to being beyond the limits of language, being to be silently and mystically relished, it refers to the very notion of the limit and the way to conceive it. What does it „mean‟ for a limit to be or to mean? One could tentatively say that the very limit of being and meaning either is or means. If it means, it pertains to the logical world as its inner limit; if it is, it could be considered as the outer limit, bordering on the world beyond words which merely is and cannot be said, not meaning anything.

A distinction should be introduced here between a limit and a border. The distinction exists in German between two words, die Grenze and die Schranke. Wittgenstein says Grenze, and let us keep the word „limit‟ for it, while Schranke can be translated as „border‟ for our present purpose (although this goes against the grain of the common German usage with the trivial thing like the German border, which is Grenze, nowadays easily crossed without even noticing). Hegel makes this conceptual distinction in his Logic, another notoriously difficult and massively commented book, from which I will quote just a single sentence: “In the very fact of determining something as border, one is already beyond it. [… darin selbst, das etwas als Schranke bestimmt ist, darüber bereits hinausgegangen ist.]” (TWA 5, p. 145)5 So border, die Schranke, means that we have already passed the border. If we conceive something as a limit, die Grenze, then we conceive it as something that forbids us to pass it, we can only stay on this side, and what is beyond is unfathomable, unreachable, unspeakable. Like in Wittgenstein. While if we conceive something as the border, die Schranke, then we have already made a step beyond. Border means trespassing. We have already crossed the border by conceiving it as the border. We have crossed it conceptually even if we haven’t physically moved. In a further far-reaching extension, for Hegel reason (die Vernunft), hence all true thought, consists precisely in constantly passing all borders and limitations. Ultimately, reason is for him the very capacity to conceive every limit as a border – every alterity is the inner alterity of reason, not its outer beyond.6 The limit forbids, the border allows. The one cannot be crossed, the other has already been crossed. Limits are external, borders are internal, they border on an outside which lurks within the inside. So there is something to be gained by conceiving the limit as the border, or to try to see border in every limit – but can one? Are the limit and the border two different creatures, or the same creature perceived in a different light, adopting a different perspective? But where could we stand to tell the difference, to see either the limit or the border? The limit and the border of language, of all things, the entity with the most insecure and blurred limits and borders, an entity out of which we cannot step. But what is it that we find once we have crossed the border of language, if it is not simply a limit? What would be the other of language across the border, if it is not simply the non-linguistic mystical being? Is the grass greener on the other side of the border of language?

Before leaving Wittgenstein let me point out that the so called „picture theory of language‟, mapping propositions to the „states of affairs‟ (Sachverhalte) in the world and doctoring the language to keep it meaningful, is not Wittgenstein’s last word on the matter, far from it. There is a long controversy around the question of how many Wittgensteins are there – some people love Wittgenstein so much that they want to have more than one of him. Is the author who wrote the foundational Tractatus at the end of WW1 the same person as the one who wrote the equally foundational Philosophical investigations thirty years later? (The book was first published in 1953, two years after his death in 1951.) Are there two souls inhabiting Wittgenstein’s breast, like Faust’s? For what we find in the Investigations is rather the opposite problem to that of Tractatus, namely, to put it in a nutshell, the impossibility of establishing the limits of language. The problem he is struggling with here is that language cannot be totalized, it doesn’t form a totality, hence its borders are hazy – do they cease thereby to be limits? Language is no longer tackled through its capacity to present the pictures of the world and its states of affairs, but through an entirely different concept of the language game. Language is not interesting for its truth value or its logical structure – where logic, and the book is called Tractatus logico-philosophicus, would serve as a tool to remedy language and bring it in line with the proper usage; logic has always been a language doctor, as it were. Now language is interesting for its pragmatic value, that is, in view of how it is used and what is actually done with it. It is not its logical or grammatical structure that is at stake, but its capacity to be played as a game. And there are so many games constantly played with language – teaching, threatening, seducing, arguing, imploring, confessing, writing poetry, demonstrating a mathematical axiom, presenting a paper at a conference … Games have rules, having rules is what defines a game, and Wittgenstein spends a lot of time trying to figure out the implicit rules we constantly use with language games. But – and this is crucial – there is no meta-rule which would regulate all language games, there is no meta-language which could spell out what language is and what would be its limits. Language games form an inconsistent whole, actually not a whole at all, it is rather a non-whole, a not-all (pas-tout, to use the Lacanian parlance) whose limits can never be spelled out. Each game borders on other games, in an unruly behaviour which cannot be put quite in order or streamlined. One has to presuppose a rule if one is to use language at all, but there is no rule of rules, no rule of the rule itself. Rules are many and they are constantly broken. But if language cannot form a totality, if therefore one cannot conceive its limits, then neither does the world. It seems that all limits have dissolved into borders, and one is always on the border of the rule and the unruly – but the very border between the rule and the unruly stands at the core of language, it is its driving force. If language has no outer limit, it has its internal border, which is presented, at the extreme point of games and their rules, by the pit of what Wittgenstein calls „the private language‟, die Privatsprache. Private language is a contradiction in terms, since a language with only private rules is no language, a language only privately spoken and understood ceases to be a language – rules, games and language can only be public, always shared by the others.7

In this view we would have another, the third paradigm of the borders of language: the border between the rule and the unruly in language, the border between the rule and breaking the rule – does breaking a rule establish another rule? Does a seemingly irregular usage follow another rule? How to figure out the language games that our fellow human beings are playing, how to disentangle their rules? This is what constantly torments Wittgenstein – can there be a rule of the unruly in language? What would be a guarantee of a rule which instigates a game? One must presuppose a rule for there to be a (language) game, but one can never quite sustain it, make it simply objectively valid and universal. So the border is now rather conceived as the border between one language game and another, where all games are played on the border of rules they assume and presuppose, but always without a guarantee; and on the other hand as the border between language and private language, an idiolect, a glossolalia, a dissolution of rules. It is the border between what makes and what unmakes the language.

After these three paradigms of conceiving the borders of language let me briefly bring up a fourth one. One needn’t look very far, at least not in terms of time and space, if not in terms of concepts. Freud shared with Wittgenstein the same period, the same country of Austria and even the Jewish origin, although there is a lot to set them apart. The two men knew each other vaguely, and Wittgenstein had both a fascination and an attitude of stark rejection regarding psychoanalysis. There is another border of language spelled out by the Freudian notion of the unconscious. The unconscious clearly presents a border of the common use of language, a border of meaning, for it always appears as something that doesn’t make sense. Meaning slips for a moment, and having slipped it can never be quite recuperated. There is like a break-down of language, its accident, in both senses of the word. The first three inaugural books in which Freud presented his discovery (The interpretation of dreams, 1900; The psychopathology of everyday life, 1901; Jokes and their relation to the unconscious, 1905) all have to do with such linguistic accidents: the dreams, the slips of the tongue, the jokes. They all deal with language and its vicissitudes (and Lacan will try to sum this up by his famous adage that „the unconscious is structured like a language‟), with the moments where the language doesn’t quite work, not in the way it was supposed to, not the way that the speaker intended. It doesn’t produce meaning (let alone an accurate picture of the state of affairs), but something recalcitrant to meaning, some points whose meaning escapes, where meaning is displaced, condensed and distorted (and those are the major mechanisms of the unconscious that Freud scrutinizes at great length, condensation, displacement, distortion, Entstellung). These quirks and slips present an enigma which calls for interpretation, that is, for an analysis which would endow the meaningless with meaning. But there is a simple and crucial point, the only one that I want to make in this vast and convoluted problem: psychoanalysis is not about unearthing a hidden meaning. All hidden meaning that one discovers and works out – and this calls for a strenuous and laborious effort – all this meaning can be recuperated by consciousness, but this doesn’t do away with the breakdown that produced it, it doesn’t heal its crack. Psychoanalysis is not about giving meaning to the points where meaning is opaque, evasive and obscure, rather it endeavours to keep this crack open. It is not that the unconscious is telling us something in a roundabout way and we would have to spell out in straightforward terms what it is saying – the unconscious resides only in this roundabout, in the surplus of distortion which cannot be done away with. It is not a particular content which one would have to dig out, it resides only in the crack and the slip. All that appears in the crack can be recuperated, except for the crack itself. It presents a border of language as meaningful, as designed to produce meaning, to produce our mapping of the world. And the crack of language it presents evokes the crack of this world itself, a crack in its mapping. If language, at the minimal, refers to the world and its states of affairs, then what does the unconscious refer to? What would be its object, its referent? Or is it a break-down of the very idea that there is a correlation between language and world, between subject and object? Something that the very idea of language is premised on? – I will not pursue this any further, let it suffice that the unconscious presents a fourth paradigm, in our count, of a border of language, an internal border where meaning slips and which cannot be recovered by meaning.

I can briefly examine two further instances of borders of language, both appearing as a border within language itself, at its very core. The first instance is the problem of the voice. At the minimal, the voice is the very medium of language, its vehicle and its home-ground, something that enables the very use of language, yet something that is not reducible to language. To be sure, all the voice elements which enable the voice to signify can be linguistically spelled out, except for the voice itself. It is, in a formula proposed by J.-A. Miller, “that in language which doesn’t contribute to signification.” The voice is like a left-over of the signifying process, its condition and its surplus in one. It can consequently acquire the imaginary value of conveying a higher meaning, something that cannot be expressed by words, and indeed the voice has been a major vehicle of transcendence, both in religious rituals and in aesthetic practices. But to endow it with superior meaning or with aesthetic adulation is perhaps going too fast – it is not a matter of theology or aesthetics, there is something cumbersome and unsettling in the voice precisely because it cannot be ascribed a place nor reduced to making sense, high or low, although we usually domesticate it and pass over it by habit. It is moreover something which invokes the body, the materiality of the bodily emission, the enjoyment, the affect, thus bringing into language the stain of singularity and enjoyment. The voice is like the human stain of language, but a stain that exceeds language while standing at its core. Yet, if it evokes the body, then this is not simply the firm physical body, made of palpable matter and physiology, for two reasons: first, the voice appears precisely as a dematerialized body, a body sublimated into the mere undulation of the air, the ethereal, the immaterial matter, literally a body vanishing into thin air. And second, it invokes a divided body, a body split precisely into an interior and an exterior, and the voice, stemming from an invisible and unfathomable interior, embodies the very passage between the inner and the outer. The experience of the voice, of both emitting and of hearing a voice, may well be what makes possible the experience of having an interiority at all – a soul, a psyche, a self – as opposed to the exteriority of the external world and its objects, separate and standing at a distance from us. So the voice, on the one hand irreducible to language, is on the other hand equally irreducible to the body, it invokes its split – and the way of its being irreducible to both may well be what, paradoxically, holds the two together, the language and the body.8 Thus the voice constitutes the border of language which is constantly enacted with every linguistic utterance, it is put into play with every use of language as its constant drama, the language constantly bordering on its other which is its very native soil and medium.

Another border of language, intimately pertaining to the nature of language, but in a very different, even opposite way than the voice, is the case of writing. If the voice brings into play the interiority – and it has always been associated with spirit, that which transcends the body and forms the medium of the soul – then writing refers to exteriority, the very opposite of the intimate. It is a medium – the other medium of language apart from the voice, and in stark contrast to it – which provides language with a material existence out there, independent of the mind which conceived language and is practicing it. The voice is the border of language which summons interiority, writing constitutes a border which refers to exteriority, objectivity, materiality of a trace. At the minimal, it makes language independent not only from the mind, but also from the situation of its use, it disentangles language from presence, its rootedness in a particular situation where both the speaker and the addressee are present. It is a telecommunication over spatial distances and over the passage of time. It is a border with something which exceeds speakers, interlocutors, presence, intentions, it gives language an independent body, it turns it into an object existing and circulating in the world. There is a long history of a spontaneous hierarchy between the two, the voice and the writing: the voice was seen as the natural soil of language, it evoked interiority, it evoked spirit, it evoked the living presence; the letter, on the other hand, was the dead letter, something that threatens to kill presence, to thwart it and to erode it. It was generally seen as a secondary supplement to language, an auxiliary, an optional instrument, not pertaining to its essence. And after all, writing appeared late in human history, people could do without it for god knows how many thousands of years, and it appears late in the individual history, one only learns to write after acquiring a proficiency in speech. This spontaneous hierarchy is what Derrida described with the notion of phonocentrism, the allegedly self-evident primacy and supremacy of voice over writing. Yet, and this is the gist of Derrida’s argument, what seemed to be so obviously exterior and secondary may well belong to the very essence of language: its capacity of being written, of leaving a trace, is what enables language at all. In this view writing would be the interior border of language itself, something enabling it – the very inscription and the iterativity of a trace, its capacity to be repeated, is what places the dead letter and the trace at the core of the living presence of voice and speech. This would be the sixth philosophical paradigm of conceiving the borders of language – something in language referring it to the materiality of inscription and trace. The Derridean word for it would be la différance, differance with an a, a difference not between more of the same, but spelling out a heterogeneity, the very principle of differing, of setting up borders and undermining them.

The borders of language are myriad, countless and heterogeneous, and one could say that there is nothing else in language but a constant bordering, it only works through addressing its edges, it constantly proceeds on the edge with its other. It can only be itself through its borders, that is, by trespassing. I have no ambition to set up an exhaustive list, but only a series of glimpses into its various borders. Let me stop at the mythical number of seven, with the seventh paradigm on my makeshift list.

What I have in mind is not the mystical experience of the unspeakable – for this is something that doesn’t stop speaking; nor bearing testimony to the unspeakable by endless proliferation of speech – for oddly there is if not an absence then a great scarcity of testimonies to this; nor a language game with its rules and breaking the rules – for this is something where no public rules exist, although this is not outside language; nor is it unconscious – this is rather the very stuff of consciousness; nor is it a voice – or at least not an emitted voice that anybody else could hear; nor is it a writing – it is actually as far removed from writing as possible. So what would this creature be? It is not something rare or exotic, quite the opposite, it is something so common, banal and trivial that no one ever bothers to speak about it, or hardly ever. It is the phenomenon of the inner speech.

The inner speech is ubiquitous. If one stops to think about it for a moment, one easily realizes that one’s life is constantly accompanied by a companion speaking in one’s head, keeping us company at all times of our waking life, never ceasing to speak, relentlessly. It looks like this is the very stuff that conditions and perpetuates our consciousness, and given its absolutely general operation, in all heads at all times, there is an astounding silence about it: nobody seems to be talking about it, having conversations about it, expounding about it, boasting about it, mentioning it at all. It just seems too trivial, almost embarrassing, something totally private and slightly tainted with an air of a dirty secret, not fit for disclosure. There is something vaguely shameful about it, as if one was caught in an unseemly homely apparel. What is this phenomenon, so close and so remote? How can one speak about it – for there seems to be a lack of a proper vocabulary and concepts. This is like the most common of all experiences, but completely passed over in silence, not reflected upon in our daily life and very seldom reflected upon in philosophy. There are some exceptions.

In order to approach it, one can perhaps try to state what it is not. First, it is not vocal, not in any usual sense of the word. No voice is being heard outside, not a sound, there are no undulations of the air, nothing can be physically described. Yet, it is an acoustic phenomenon, even if internal one – it doesn’t address any other sense except hearing. And one can easily realize this if one thinks about the melody one can hear in one’s head and cannot be rid of. There is an insistent internal hearing, although there is technically nothing to hear. There is a technical literature on this in neurology where this experience can actually be described and observed, with precise instruments, as a particular kind of brain activity. It is not so private as to escape science and measurement, but unless you have an MRI at hand, it is as private as you can get. Second, this is not communication. There are many illustrious theorists – philosophers, linguists, media theorists etc. – who think that language is basically communication and can be accounted for in communicational terms. One can list two very conspicuous examples of Roman Jakobson and his scheme of six functions of language, and one can invoke the name of Jürgen Habermas, for better or worse. I firmly don’t belong to this crowd. Communication is not the most interesting thing about language nor can it account for its effects and ramifications, nor for its borders. Inner speech obviously doesn’t fit into the mould of language as communication, it doesn’t divulge anything to anyone, it doesn’t dispense information, it is uniquely a speech not directed at others, at anyone else, and moreover, a speech not accessible to anyone else. It has the audience of one only, only one privileged listener, it is for his ears only, and not even really for his ears. It is the speech at its most private, but nevertheless this is not Wittgenstein’s private language where publicly accessible rules would dissolve into an idiolect – it is a speech just like the normal speech, with the same grammar, syntax and vocabulary. It is just like its rambling paler and dimmer shadow, its incoherent double, a private place where linguistic rules slacken, where they may be fragmented, but definitely not given up. If there is communication, then it’s singularly a communication between myself and myself, between the ego and the alter ego – but is there an ego without the inner speech? Is not this the very substance of the ego? Is there an ego without this alter dwelling at the closest to it, inhabiting the same tiny studio? One can see that immediately high philosophical stakes are raised at this point. Is the very notion of the ego dependent on language? And if on language, then perhaps not on its conspicuous public image, but on this unglamorous fellow-traveller of language, hidden in the cellar, or rather in the attic, indeed „the madman in the attic‟. Third, this is not a madman at all, this is the most strikingly normal phenomenon, boring and tedious in its normality. This is not the phenomenon of hearing voices, of vocal or verbal hallucination, where people are tormented by intrusive voices stemming from their head, with no outer source, yet compellingly real, more real than any other voices. Hearing voices is spectacular (and can have momentous consequences, think of Socrates and Joan of Arc), but what I want to consider is dreary and dull, it affects everyone. Fourth, this is not the voice of conscience. Notoriously, conscience has a voice which addresses us in second person and tells us what to do or not to do. „Do your duty‟, or „Do not give way as to your desire‟. There is a very long tradition linking conscience, ethics and morality with a voice, a voice imposing itself insistently, not giving us rest until it is heard. One can trace its long history from Socrates to Heidegger (as I have tried in my book). But conscience is not consciousness, and in the figure of speech that served as a guideline to the entire ethical tradition one always spoke of the voice of conscience, not of the speech of conscience. The mere voice is enough – witness to this is Heidegger who maintains that this voice says „strictly speaking nothing‟ (#56 of Being and time), it is a mere voice of insistence, not even a voice, but a non-sonorous call by which one is merely summoned to one’s own most potentiality-for-being.9 (And Being, for Heidegger, is ultimately epitomized by „the voice of Being‟.) What we are concerned with here is consciousness, not conscience (although they have the same Latin root and in French, e. g., the same word designates both, la conscience), not morality, but something which rather appears not to give a damn about morality. And fifth, this is not the unconscious, it’s rather the very stuff that one is constantly conscious of, if vaguely, whether one wants to or not. It lacks the glamour of the unconscious, although some of its tentacles no doubt reach into the unconscious.

If this is what inner speech is not, what is it then? I can draw only a very provisional and haphazard list since the phenomenon is haphazard by its nature. It is a patchwork, a hodgepodge, a mélange, like a rhizome underlying and redoubling consciousness, stretching in all directions.

The first element of it is its quality of a tape-recorder or echo. It is like a device which records various pieces of conversation, words said by other people that one can’t get out of one’s mind, one’s own words previously uttered, words accidentally overheard, words read. Anything can be recorded, and the inner speech doesn’t have the filing system to sort out recordings by categories or by relevance. One often turns over some words in one’s mind which may be quite trivial, contingent, but one can’t be rid of them – something has stuck in one’s mind, and there is something in the inner speech that one can designate as „stuckness‟, for lack of a better word. Words stick, and the stuck words are being endlessly replayed. This is a tape-recorder with a particularly prominent rewind button. This recording function, one of the key elements of inner speech, is to be distinguished from the function of memory, although memory is no doubt also a major agent in this and the line between the two is blurred. But memories are summoned by an act of conscious will and then perused and scrutinized, either in search of a particular item or information, or else in search of a pleasure value that a memory can provide; or else in the analytical spirit of examining why something occurred and what went wrong. But the recording function of inner speech is perhaps more intimately connected with what Marcel Proust called la mémoire involontaire, the involuntary memory, a memory which springs up without being summoned, as an unexpected guest or an intruder. And Proust, who is ultimately the writer of the involuntary memory, starts his monumental novel precisely in the state of falling asleep, when the conscious controls are losing their grip and the involuntary memories flood the mind, building the cathedral of the past, in search of the lost time, between the time lost and found again. It all happens on the verge of giving up will, almost giving in to slumber, yet firmly persisting on the edge, refusing to fall asleep, that is, refusing to give way as to the edge, persevering at the edge. There is something in Proust that is related to the inner speech, although the convoluted syntactically complex very long sentences in which he tries to capture it are at the extreme opposite end from the loose and fragmented structure of the inner speech. – Things are recorded on this inner tape without one’s will being quite able to steer them and sieve them. At the bottom of it, there is the crucial fact that the very function of speech, the acquisition of language, depends on a recording device. One repeats the words heard, there is no other way to learn how to speak, but before repeating them they must linger for a while and simmer in the limbo of inner speech. All future speech comes from past speech, with the hiatus of inner speech in between. Both past speech and future speech are public, but between them there is the private recess of inner speech, for the audience of just one. There is no speech without inner speech.

Second, connected to the recording function there is the function of altering the past, or remedying the past, compensating the past. This is a large slice of inner speech: replaying what one should have said but didn’t. One failed to give a good answer, to respond adequately to a situation, and one then has to replay the situation endlessly in one’s head, phrasing what one should have said or the way one should have acted. And one structurally realizes only too late, there is always a delay and retroactivity in realization and insight, so there is the inner speech which tries to remedy whatever failed, to correct and to fix one’s own incapacity to be fully alert and present and adequate and equal to the occasion. And this delay, or this inequality with oneself, is very much what structures consciousness as such, so there is always plenty of work to do for the inner speech. Does one ever fully inhabit one’s (self)presence, does one ever say the right thing? There is a lag which structures consciousness, and the inner speech sneaks into this lag. „What a fool I was that I didn’t say this or that, what an idiot to let myself be humiliated in this way, what a fool I made of myself, what must they think of me‟ and much more along these lines – and one is always structurally an idiot and a fool to be retroactively vindicated by the inner speech. There are many variations to be put under the general rubric of „Why am I such an idiot?‟

If these two functions look backwards, either recording bits of the past or remedying them, then the third crucial function looks forwards. It is the function of anticipation, of rehearsing in one’s head what one is going to say, immediately or at a future occasion. One rehearses the possible conversations with a boss, a friend, a lover, a child, one rehearses the paper one is going to write, the lecture one is going to give. It all has to be rehearsed beforehand in one’s inner speech before turning into outer speech, before coming out, as it were, coming out into the open, into the open of what is usually understood by language. Language is the creature with two sides, with two faces, one public and one private and hidden. It entirely unfolds itself in the interplay between the inner and the outer speech, the passage of this watershed is crucial for its functioning. There is no outer speech without it being first rehearsed ahead of time – but can one ever make a good rehearsal, a dress rehearsal, as it were, where what comes out is already fully formed in one’s head, so that coming out would be a mere repetition? What happens in the passage itself – a mere conversion of the inner into the outer? I will come back to that.

Fourth, what one hears in one’s head is not merely speech. One can most insistently hear a melody, a piece of music, and very often a piece that one doesn’t like at all and cannot be rid of, it just repeats itself over and over again, compulsively and tormentingly, against one’s will. There is a hodgepodge variety of sounding in one’s head intermingled with speech, particularly music but also other sounds. And in a further extension, the inner speech is not only accompanied by a soundtrack, but also by images and pictures, it is an illustrated magazine; one pictures particular speech situations, faces of particular people involved, the scenery. But this would extend our topic into another direction, equally mysterious, of the inner space of representation, visual imaging, the imaginary. In the case of inner speech this may well be a secondary phenomenon, just as Freud says about dreams that the images, so striking and essential to the dream, are ultimately a diversion, one should keep to the wording if one wants to disentangle the clue. But this is not the whole truth about it, there is a proliferation of inner images that unfolds along with the speech as its counterpart. I will leave aside this line of reflection about the intermingling of the visual and speech in one’s private interior. It would lead us to a further and vaster problem, that of representation as such, representation as the inner mental reproduction.

Fifth, there is the function of the running commentary that the inner speech constantly provides. „Where did I leave my keys? Has someone has displaced them of have I? And here is the electricity bill. And I should call my friend, as I promised, I will do it later. Now what was I about to do? Let me have a cup of tea first.‟ Etc. One comments the dreary trivia of one’s life, and there is no life so trivial that wouldn’t call for a comment in one’s head, no occasion so banal that wouldn’t deserve one. Living an everyday life and commenting upon it in inner speech are one and the same thing.

Sixth, there is the function of day-dreaming, the function of self-indulgence in wishful scenarios, imagining rather implausible scripts in which one would play the role of a hero, take revenge on some dragon and rescue some gorgeous maiden. Freud gives the example of a frequent and typical scenario where a poor young man imagines rescuing a millionaire from certain death, who then out of gratitude bestows his millions on the courageous noble young man, and possibly he then goes on to marry his daughter. It’s very predictable, there is always a happy ending, Hollywood didn’t have to invent anything, it merely had to listen to the inner speech for scenarios. Freud spends quite some time pondering on day-dreaming, and he sees the function of fantasy as something which is in a way indifferent to the divide between consciousness and the unconscious, for the same function of fantasy is operative in day-dreaming and night-dreaming. There is a wish-fulfilment at stake that works on both ends, although its fate takes a different turn in the unconscious, where the wishful fantasy can easily turn into a nightmare, and for structural reasons. He further wrote some reflections (in his paper “The creative writer and day-dreaming”, 1908) on the relation between fantasies, day-dreaming and literary creation, so this function may be internally linked to artistic creation. There is further the part of sexual fantasies in inner speech (and the inner eye), but I will draw my line there and refrain from giving any picturesque examples that everyone can easily provide on his or her own.

A further variety of the day-dreaming scenarios, and closely connected with the very function of the inner speech, is the constant dialogue with an imaginary interlocutor. One invents a friend, an accomplice, a sparring partner, a confidant, with whom one discusses ones secrets, one’s problems, one’s dilemmas, one airs one’s opinions and imagines arguments. This is a frequent or even regular phenomenon of growing up, and I suppose no childhood ever passes without it. In some cases the person acquires an autonomous existence and this can lead to serious delusions and mental disorders. (I cannot refrain from mentioning Agota Kristof’s astounding trilogy of novels, The notebook, The proof, The third lie, with the function of the real or imaginary twin, something that helps to survive the atrocities of the world war and the Stalinist rule.) And there is no doubt an adult version, where the constant interlocutor may well be a real person, the beloved person, a far away close friend, or someone dead, and one can lead one’s entire life in dialogue and in constant discussion with this one person in one’s head, justifying one’s life in his or her eyes.

Seventh, and last – what of meditation? And I don’t mean the spiritual meditation, either of the traditional or of the new-age kind, but rather the Cartesian variety. What of reflection? What of the strenuous endeavours to figure out a difficult philosophical problem, or a mathematical problem, or a problem in computer programming? No doubt this happens in inner speech as the home-ground. One tries to systematically look at all the angles, one considers all possibilities, one invents virtual models, one mentally consults the authorities on the subject, one consults the library in one’s head, one follows a certain argument to see where it could lead. Ultimately, and this is the bottom-line – what of thought? Is inner speech, apart from its other functions, also essentially the function of what is called thought? What does one think with, if not with the inner speech?10 This of course touches upon the old philosophical problem whether thought as such is something different from speech – is there thought prior and apart from speech, inner or outer, thought to which speech would merely give expression and form? Can thought be formed independently from speech? Is there a „mentalese‟, the language of thought different from language, as the cognitive psychology would have it (Fodor, Katz, the idea stems from Chomsky)? A highly structured mentalese but not quite „structured like a language‟? How does thought happen in the midst of this hodgepodge, springing up phoenix-like from this chaotic sticky mud? How does thought cohabit in this very crowded space with elements which seem to be the very opposite of thought, rather the evasion of thought? E. g. the random self-indulgence of day-dreaming vs. the stringency required to solve a logical problem?

Let me stop here, again with the proverbial number of seven: recording, remedying/vindicating, rehearsing, soundtrack, running commentary, day-dreaming, thought. Much more can be added. I left out, most conspicuously, the whole problem of the stream of consciousness and its grand fate in modern literature, from Joyce (think of Molly Bloom’s „yes‟) and Virginia Woolf to Beckett. The very idea of the stream of consciousness was to write down the inner speech, to emulate it and make it available on the page, so that the advent of modern literature utterly depended on taking the inner speech as the clue and the crux. I left out some important reflections on this phenomenon made by William James or Mikhail Bakhtin, two of the very few who devoted their attention to it. Now, if we look at this provisional list, it all looks like a very mixed bag indeed, there is no criterion to sort out this mess, no general principle of division, no good way to label the categories so that they would form some sort of a system. This is a haphazard coexistence of the heterogeneous, all kinds of elements happily or unhappily flocking together. It is a universe of total inconsistency. What renders it consistent, eventually, is the passage from inner speech to outer speech, where one must come up with a word, an utterance, a sentence, a response, a question, something addressing the other, the private suddenly rendered public, stepping into another realm where it exists for others, and hence for what is in Lacanian psychoanalysis called big Other. (But is there a function of the big Other in inner speech? A dimmer and shrunken version of it? Is there the big Other without its paler shadow, its inner doppelganger?) It must do its coming out and make itself, if not consistent, at least presentable, in some broadest sense. There is something constitutive of the very notion of consciousness, a crucial mechanism which hinges on this passage. All the drama of consciousness is constantly played out on this edge.

What is at stake in inner speech is the double of consciousness without which consciousness would not exist. Can one imagine – and this is very hard to imagine – a situation where the inner speech would fail, where there would be silence in one’s head? This would be terrifying to the utmost, I suppose this would be the dissolution of consciousness, a step into madness, it would entail the impossibility of speech. And there is something profoundly troubling if one tries to imagine what goes on inside of the head of an autist, an aphasic, someone who suffered a stroke, someone with brain lesion, an Alzheimer patient. It is unimaginable, and the effort to imagine it brings up the black corners of one’s own mind, one’s capacity for blackness and blankness, which is perhaps always but a step away.

Speech is a creature divided into its inner and outer side, and both sides condition each other – it divides into two. Maybe the function of nirvana is precisely striving for a state where one would be rid of the inner speech, but this is then indeed a state beyond consciousness. This double of consciousness is not the unconscious (which is but a crack, a crevice, a split, appearing in a flash and gone again), this is a constant rambling accompanying consciousness, wandering in all directions. There is a strange mixture of freedom and compulsion in it – one is nowhere as free as in one’s own head, but one is also strangely ruled by compulsive repetitions, by the essential stuckness, haunted by what refuses to go away or to be steered – the mixture of fancy and stuckness, constantly on the verge of the one turning into the other. One’s inner speech is at the same time the birthplace of will and something that cannot be quite ruled by one’s will. There is a strange mixture of incoherent rambling and the attempt at stringency; of giving way to wherever fancy may take us and of refusing to give way, taking a decision of command. What is an ego? What is an ego without an alter ego? How many does it take to be an ego? Is the constant companion talking to us the other of ego, or its core? Talking to us – but who are we apart from our inner speech?11 The function of ego-speech is essential to the maintenance of an ego, and ego maintains itself merely by speaking to itself. The most puzzling part, I suppose, is ultimately not the particular content that appears in inner speech, as opposed to the outer, but the very instance of the split into the inner and the outer as constitutive of the function of both speech and ego. It’s not that „Je est un autre‟, in Rimbaud’s famous adage, it is rather the split of the same, at the core of the very ego identity, the other being merely a dimmer and incoherent shadow of the ego, yet quintessential.

Let me finish with two literary examples. The first one stems from Heinrich von Kleist, his piece called “On the gradual production of thoughts whilst speaking” (“Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden”, 1805, at the time when Hegel was writing the Phenomenology). It is an absolutely wonderful and astounding short piece that deserves to be put on all reading lists. Kleist’s problem is closely connected to ours: where and when does thought happen? Do we form it first in our head, rehearse it by inner speech, and then repeat what has been fully shaped in outer speech? His idea is that it never happens this way. Thought actually and necessarily takes form while speaking, so that at the outset we only have a vague, or at least not fully formed, idea or intention of what we are going to say. It is the very passage that forces our hand, so that when the inner becomes outer it is in this very process that something else is produced, something unexpected, a surplus, something not yet there in inner speech. He gives four examples, e. g.: while trying to solve a mathematical problem he is stuck for hours in his head and cannot make any progress, then he decides to talk about it to his sister, who doesn’t know a thing about mathematics, and the moment he tries to explain it to this ignorant interlocutor, the problem is suddenly solved. It is the passage that provided the bonus, as it were. Etc. His major example concerns the French revolution. When the king, on 23 June 1789, sent his messenger to the gathering of the general estates with a clear command that the estates must be disbanded, Mirabeau stood up, no doubt trying to find something to say in his inner speech, but there was no time, he had to start speaking and inventing as he went along – and it was in this process that the thought was formed, he stalled for time, rambling on, until he found it: “‟But by what right do you give orders here? We are the representatives of the nation. The nation does not take orders. It gives them. And to make myself perfectly plain to you, tell your king we shall not move from here unless forced to by bayonets.‟ Whereupon, well content with himself, he sat down.”12 If thought is formed while speaking, in the transition from inner speech to the outer, if there is something of a momentous event in that passage, then Kleist’s text offers the whole scale of it, from the smallest and banal everyday occurrence to the biggest imaginable. Indeed, there is a revolution at stake, a revolution in speech and thought, and the best theory of the French revolution that I know of is this one: Mirabeau, once he opened his mouth, had to finish the sentence. He was prey to the minimal device of the passage of inner speech into the outer, and look where this has brought us.13

This passage has a close link with psychoanalysis. Let us briefly look at Kleist’s first example, explaining the mathematical problem to his sister: “And in this process nothing helps me more than if my sister makes a move suggesting she wishes to interrupt; for such an attempt from outside to wrest speech from its grasp still further excites my already hand-worked mind and, like a general when the circumstances press, its powers are raised a further degree.” (Gailus, p. 3; Selected writings, p. 405-6) What is at stake here is not merely the transition from the inner speech to the outer, there is at the same time the dramatic passage from a merely epistemological problem to the battleground, the strife, the affective engagement, an antagonistic exchange with the other, where the other appears as a competitor and a threat. And there is the advent of a new order of temporality, not the leisure of extended rumination in one’s head, but the temporality of haste, alacrity, time pressure, Zeitnot (literally time-urgency). The time introduced by the other is of a different order than the time of inner speech, suddenly one is like a general in the midst of a battle, this is not about cognition or communication, this is like thought in the conditions of a state of exception, a crisis. The other is not merely an interlocutor to whom we want to convey something, but a contender and a rival. Lacan, in his famous paper on logical time,14 has brought up the notorious story of three prisoners where the logical reasoning is to be carried out precisely under the conditions of time pressure, in strife with others, where I can only come to my thought by reading the signs of the others and engaging with the time that this imposes. But isn’t this the situation of any „communication‟, of the very „coming out‟ of thought? The situation where we essentially think with others as our contenders? Thought and knowledge – don’t they essentially happen at the interstice of an encounter with the other that endows them with the necessary affect and passion? And Kleist says most to the point: “For it is not us who know, it is above all a particular state of ours who knows.”

Psychoanalysis basically espouses this Kleist’s theory of language underlying his brief piece. Its minimal injunction, its ground-rule – to say anything that happens to pass through one’s mind without constraints – can be translated into: „tell your inner speech‟. Carry on with your „interior monologue‟, but in front of an other, in front of someone who is like a condensation of the Other, a foreigner, purified from its usual social and intersubjective framework. This coming out of inner speech in the encounter with the Other is what is called transference, at its minimal, and this is what enables „the gradual production of thought whilst speaking‟, as it were. But this other is not a partner in a dialogue, this is not communication – for to translate this passage into the terms of communication is perhaps to pacify its dramatic impact, to water down its impulse, to neutralize the emergence of what is at stake into an exchange between partners. The analyst doesn’t try to interrupt or wrest for speech, but this brings out the agonistics at its purest, in the seeming absence of immediate contest for the word – the intervention which takes the form of desisting from intervention. There is always time pressure in analysis, even if it takes the opposite form of a time passing excruciatingly slowly. And it is no coincidence that the career of Lacan was so dramatically ridden the question of his short sessions, séances courtes, which seemed to display the glaring irregularity of his practice and which have precisely to do with the exacting time pressure. Analysis brings together the transition from the inner speech to the outer, the encounter with the other and the form of temporality, and all this, taken together, presents the moment of transformation, of invention, of emergence, indeed of a revolutionizing process. Free association brings forth the affect of thought, which may well take the form of blabbering, babble, incoherence, silence, bidding for time, but this affect is the lever of the process. In this passage from the inner to the outer one says something else than what one intended to say, and both the unconscious and truth hinge on this passage.

I will leave the last word to Samuel Beckett. He is the most suitable man of the last word precisely by his firm belief that there is none, so his last word is famously „I‟ll go on‟, the perfect ending of a perfect novel. One could say that Beckett stands like at the opposite end in relation to Kleist: this is not the literature of time pressure, for time is infinitely protracted for Beckett’s „heroes‟, they don’t know what to do with it. They already start in a situation of the end of time, „living in the end of times‟, the time is over for them, there is just an extended waiting, a time-loop on the brink of death. They may lack everything, mobility, limbs, identity, social standing, name, ideas, future, prospects, but the one thing they don’t lack is time. They just have to pass time. And it all seems that they also lack the other ingredient, essential for Kleist: they lack the Other. Who do they talk to? Who is the addressee of Malone’s rambling stories in Malone dies? And in the most extreme form, who is the nameless creature who speaks in The Unnameable and to whom does he speak? There is ultimately like a lack of an encounter with the other that conditions the discourse. With no time and no Other, this is like anti-analysis.15 This is seemingly like the inner speech in its pure state, with no time limits and no addressee, and indeed no one has come closer to the mechanisms of inner speech as Beckett. This is like keeping the inner speech on the verge, coming out, since it is written down and conveyed, but not quite, since there is no one to whom it is addressed, no one to hear it – except for „us‟? Yet precisely with this infinitely extended temporality and this absence of the Other, without the instance which could make sense of what is said, the vantage point of meaning, the question of time and the Other are brought to the pinnacle, by opposite means as in analysis. The time and the Other waver, they vacillate precisely in relation to the very status of the inner speech.

I will take just a single quote from The Unnameable (1953): “I shall transmit the words as received, by the ear, or roared through a trumpet into the arsehole, in all their purity, and in the same order, as far as possible. This infinitesimal lag, between arrival and departure, this trifling delay in evacuation, is all I have to worry about.” (The Trilogy, London: Picador 1979, p. 321) This is what speaking is, ultimately: transmitting the words received and recorded. There is, at the minimal, the tiny lag between arrival and departure, and it is in this lag that the inner speech takes its hold. Beckett, as always, tries to bring things to the core, and what one finds at the core is like a machine of re-transmission, with the tiny lag between the input and the output. This doesn’t seem a very flattering or creative account of consciousness, to say the least. Yet, the tiny lag between arrival and departure is a space of both constraint and freedom, and it is precisely at the point where Beckett constrains it to the utmost – transmitting the words in the same order as received – that the lag is an opening. First in the sense which is paramount for Beckett: to find the resource in the maximum constraint, the impediment of movement, the disability of the body, the brink of death – it is always (and only) on the verge that possibility of sense emerges. Second in the sense that even in the extreme situation of a mere repetition, of turning oneself into the perfect echo, the lag nevertheless changes everything, imperceptibly and essentially. There is more in the echo than in the original, the echo has the power over the original, it displaces it and dislocates it, it transforms it and puts it asunder. But for our purpose, the essential part is that the lag is populated by the inner speech. Inner speech is a Kantian Ding an sich, by definition unobtainable, irreproducible, for the moment one speaks it out or writes it down, it evaporates, it ceases to be what it is by definition, i. e. inner. It turns into something divulged and presented to the others, fit for the public ear, even if apparently incoherent and rambling. Inner speech can by definition only lead a shadowy existence, in the twilight of everyone’s mind, immediately dissipated by the ray of light. It is ubiquitous, but one cannot catch it without destroying it. Yet it is not unknowable, it is a describable entity, one can appeal to the most common experience, one can scrutinize its mechanisms. It dwells precisely in the twilight, neither in full light nor in pitch darkness, so close, yet not quite reachable – too close to be reached. It testifies to the fundamental topology of language, its split into the public and private, the outer and the inner, the clear light of the accessible and the twilight of the elusive which conditions the visible part, although it is cut of the same stuff. Beckett’s The Unnameable is no doubt the supreme instance of writing down the inner speech, where both the speaker and the addressee of speech remain completely unclear, from the first page to the last – both are not just not named, but remain unnameable. Naming them would map language onto private and public identities and thus suppress the problem. It is entirely situated in the tiny lag, ramblingly repeating the speech heard somewhere some time and retransmitting it, without any ambition of originality or of communicating something, without any worry about the content, which becomes increasingly indifferent. It is not about what is being said, but about the topology of saying. And it is one of the greatest works of literature precisely by not giving up on the tiny lag and keeping at the closest to it.

The inner speech is the minimal and the paramount border of language, constitutive of language as such as well as of consciousness as such. Can one say, finally: consciousness itself is nothing but the border of language, its tiny lag?


[1] I am using the classical translation by C. K. Ogden, first published in 1922, Tractatus logico-philosophicus, London/New York: Routledge 2002.

[2] Among the host of interpreters, I will single out a particularly unexpected and perspicacious one: Pierre Hadot, Wittgenstein et les limites du langage, Paris: Vrin 2004. This formidable historian of ancient philosophy who exerted such a profound influence on later Foucault was actually one of the first people to introduce Wittgenstein in France in the late fifties.

[3] “The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen.” (6.41)

[4] Encore, Paris: Seuil 1975, p. 71.

[5] I quote Hegel from Theorie Werkausgabe (TWA) in 20 volumes, Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 1970.

[6] Reason is “the universal which is for itself … beyond all particularity, it is only the going beyond the border” (“… das Allgemeine, das für sich … über alle Besonderheit hinaus ist, nur das Hinausgehen über die Schranke ist”) (p. 146). For reason alone every limit is a border.

[7] One of the most famous books on Wittgenstein is actually called On rules and private language, by Saul Kripke (Oxford: Blackwell 1982).

[8] This is an argument which I dwelled upon at great length in my book on the voice, A voice and nothing more, Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press 2006. I cannot pursue this any further here.

[9] Being and time, Oxford: Blackwell 1973, p. 318.

[10] Lacan, in a famous quip, says that he thinks with his feet, since it’s only with his feet that he touches ground. And there is a whole school of thought, the peripathetics, the followers of Aristotle, who introduced this practice, thinking while walking, thinking by walking.

[11] On a famous spot in Grammatology Derrida says that hearing one’s voice, hearing oneself speak, “that undoubtedly is what is called consciousness” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1976, p. 20). Inner speech gives another twist to this. Does one hear oneself speak in inner speech? This is like a diminished version of hearing, it gives another twist to both hearing and consciousness. Hearing is split into inner and outer, along the same dividing line as both consciousness and language.

[12] Quoted by Andreas Gailus, Passions of the sign, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 2006, p. 5. This book provides an excellent analysis of Kleist’s piece and its vast ramifications. The English translation of Kleist‟s text is to be found in Selected writings, London: J. M. Dent 1997, p. 405-9 (here p. 406).

[13] “In this way it was perhaps the twitching of an upper lip or an equivocal tugging at the cuffs that brought about the overthrow of the order of things in France.” (P. 407)

[14] “Logical time and the assertion of anticipated certainty”, in Écrits, transl. Bruce Fink, New York: W. W. Norton 2006, pp. 161-175. The title could be read as a curious version of Kleist’s title.

[15] Cf. Didier Anzieu, Beckett, Paris: Gallimard 1999. Anzieu, a French analyst of great standing, curiously maintains that this basically an analytical situation. To my knowledge this is the only case that a major psychoanalyst wrote a major study on Beckett.