Derrida Contra Searle – Intentionality – Part 2…

searle big questionimg167

Part 1 is here

Another acerbic criticism by Searle concerns meaning as utterance meaning attributed to Derrida, where the positionality of intentions is confined to entities that are mysterious in nature and lying behind these utterances. The only way to smash this criticism is by showing that Derrida does respect the existence of distinction that mirrors Searle’s distinction between speaker’s utterance meaning and literal meaning. In accepting such a distinction, the seemingly apparent gulf becomes non-existent, and the irreducible polysemy or dissemination of Derrida lands on the same level as the literal ambiguity of Searle. Searle highlights the category mistake in underlying the supposition that the utterance of the token and the token are identical and the mistake only proliferates when the token acquires a different meaning from type in the case of utterance meaning as differing from sentence meaning. For him, excepting diachronic changes, special codes, and the like, the token’s meaning is always the same as the meaning of the type, and the only distinction worthy of name is the one between speaker’s utterance meaning from sentence meaning, type or token (John R. Searle – Expression and Meaning _ Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts). This can mean nothing more and nothing less than the fact that one’s use of token has no impact upon token’s type. Even if utterances and tokens are different from one another, utterances lose their existential status without tokens, implying that nothing rules out the possibility of utterances and token having different meanings, with the condition of utterance meaning as not affecting token’s literal meaning being strictly adhered to.1 In order to establish the nexus between literal meaning and the issue of intentionality, Searle takes a recourse to fungible intentionality that highlights the conventionality of intentionality when trying to connect to the notion of literal meaning. This introduces about-ness in intentions or intentional states. The word “fungible” is used to designate a literal meaning that can do the work of a state of mind that is about something. Searle’s vagaries are once again evident when he simply broaches this concept of fungible intentionality in his reply to Derrida, as the essay circulates around argument of the iterability of linguistic forms as facilitating a necessary condition for particular forms of intentionality as characterizing speech acts. This is so, primarily due to the status enjoyed by us human beings at mastering recursive rules that help in the proliferation of speech acts thus generating infinite number of new things, meanings in its wake. And this is true even in case of remainder or when the sentence gets alienated, weaned from its origin. As Searle points out,

There is no getting away from intentionality, because a meaningful sentence is just a standing possibility of the corresponding intentional speech act. To understand it, it is necessary to know that anyone who said it and meant it would be performing that speech act determined by the rules of the languages that give the sentence its meaning in the first place.

Another complication that surfaces in Searle is his insistence on the dissimilarity between utterance meaning’s context dependency vis-à-vis sentence meaning’s context dependency2, which incidentally is even accepted by Derrida. But, the problem lies in the non-clarity in Searle when he is trying his hand at distinguishing between meaning attached to the sentence and meaning attached to the utterance in his critique of Derrida in relation to Austin. To take an example, Derrida invokes a puzzling example from Nietzsche, “I forgot my umbrella”. This quote simply means ‘I forgot my umbrella’, even if one is unaware of the context underlying the remark. This quote also gives rise to a duality in that, on the one hand, one is aware of what is intended, whereas, on the other, one is not aware of the intention behind the statement. If this duality is considered, and if what Searle claims about intentionality as missing from writing holds true, then there is nothing that goes against Searle, for the consequence that a sentence would undergo would always be dictated by fungibility of intentions. But the point is missed for the thinker in question fails to apprehend what Derrida might have meant, that is, writer’s intention rather than fungible intention. The Derridean argument thereafter goes on to prove that intentions as such are never fully actualized. In a highly insightful passage, Derrida (Limited Inc 38) comments,

On the one hand, I am more or less in agreement with Sarl’s statement, “…there is no getting away from intentionality, because a meaningful statement is just a standing possibility of the corresponding intentional speech act”, I would, on the other hand, add, placing undue and artificial emphasis on -ful, that for reasons just stated, there cannot be a sentence that can be fully and actually meaningful and hence (or because) there can be no ‘corresponding (intentional) speech act’ that would be fulfilled, fully present, active and actual.

So, even if there are some traces of agreement between the two thinkers, Derrida rejects the thesis that intentions could be fully present within the text, thus proving his dissemination or irreducible polysemy as holding firm grounds. Moreover, his affirmation gets all the more strengthened because, iterability keeps account of dissemination, thus preventing intentions from ever getting actualized. Furthermore, if dissemination is to mark its presence, it is possible only with and within iterability. This goes on to prove the untenability of Searle’s “ideal hypothesis”, since the very structure of the mark excludes the hypothesis of idealization.

There is a nuance associated with irreducible polysemy, despite Searle’s thesis of vagueness and literal ambiguity that is no different than Derrida’s dissemination. Searle holds ambiguity to be finite, whereas, Derrida holds polysemy to be determinable, since irreducible polysemy never makes the arrogant claim on signs, words and sentences as having indeterminate meanings.3 Even a cursory look at the positions of the two thinkers  is enough to reach a conclusion that on the issue of meaning of sentences, these thinkers do not differ greatly, since both regard meaning as relatively contextual and meta- contextual, in addition to holding contexts as unchanging, and showing hardly any nuance amongst themselves in considering polysemy a characteristic feature of sentences. Well, this judgment appears to be slightly neutral laden or prejudiced with the usage of the word “nuance”, and could eventually mean as if the word is used rather strongly. But, this ain’t the sense in which it is employed here. There is a difference, and it lies in iterability, which, for Derrida, lends a polysemic status to sentential meanings, whereas the deviation wrought about by Searle lends legitimacy to the existence of univocal sentences.

Before getting into the discussion on parasitic discourses that formed a real contentious issue between Searle and Derrida, on the latter’s reading of Austin, it is necessary to provide a brief recapitulation. The major criticisms provided by Searle on Derrida’s take on Austin’s parasitic/normal/abnormal discourse are,

  1. a misplaced conflation of iterability, citationality and parasitism that slides into a misplaced accusation of Austin as implicitly denying quotability,
  2. a misplaced conflation of non-fiction/fiction distinction with speech/writing distinction as attributed to Austin,
  3. a mistaken understanding of Austin’s exclusion of parasitic discourse and,
  4. attaching an ethical status to this exclusion.

What is confounding for Searle is his understanding of Derrida, who according to former denies Austin any possible expressibility of quotations, since, Austin analyses serious speech acts before undertaking studies on parasitic ones. So, if Searle thinks of parasitism as not a matter of quotability on the one hand, he also considers Derrida’s position of commitment to parasitism as citationality on the other. Thus nothing differentiates citationality from quotability for Searle, whereas, for Derrida, quotation is just one aspect of citation. This Searlean argument falls flat on face, and a further decimation of it occurs, when one notes that Derridean parasitism is only an utterance, or a citation of an utterance in contexts that happen to be extraordinary. If non-serious citations were “the determined modification” of general citationality, it could only imply for non-serious utterances as a certain type of utterance in general4. One of the themes of Signature Event Context is to show that Austin excludes the determined modification of citationality, and with this exclusion, a successful performative misses its mark. So, it appears that there is a trade-off of exclusion for one type of citationality in favor of the other, viz, serious citation. This is a clear case of Searle misinterpreting citationality as mere quotability. Now, if there is a suggestion to the effect of non-serious citations as determined modifications of citationality, this could only be deciphered on the basis of conventionality, in that, whenever, these features are noticed, they should always be taken as utterances of a certain kind. If this is where Searle’s criticism aims at, Derrida takes a recourse to counter it by an augmented track to hit straight at former’s notions of idealization and semantic rules. This is to be accomplished in order to prove whether a distinction that is not sharp enough is a legitimate conceptual distinction in the first place. Derrida carries no qualms in admitting that it is not, whereas Searle insists on it being a legitimate conceptual distinction. The questions concerning the legitimate conceptual distinction is again a deviated path for the thinkers in question, since, both of them at least agree upon the premiss that a normal speech act is only comprehensible as a fiction following an aporetic situation in which a sharp distinction between normal and parasitic speech acts is encountered, thus considering these distinctions as nothing short of idealizations.

1 Kevin Halion correctly summarizes this with his reading of Searle as delineating two fundamental and separate distinctions viz, sentence/utterance and type/token. Speaker’s utterance meaning and sentence meaning are both context dependent. Over and above the context dependence of the utterance of ‘The cat is on the mat’ (where its indexicals are only determined relative to the context of utterance which decides which cat it is and where the mat is), there is a contextuality of its literal meaning. This dependence on contextual or background assumptions is easily shown. For instance, it would be problematic to speak of a cat’s being on a mat outside some gravitational field. However it might still be said and Searle gives an example to show this: looking from a space-ship window, mats float past with cats near them in such a relation that, relative to the ship, it can be said that in some cases the cat is on the mat and in the others the mat is on the cat. And there are innumerable other contexts to which the statement about the cat is also relative.

2 For to understand this opposition and differing kinds of context dependencies, it is worthwhile to have a look at the quote by Searle (Expression and Meaning 133f, linked above) below,

A … skeptical conclusion that I explicitly renounce is that the thesis of the relativity of literal meaning destroys or is in some way inconsistent with the system of distinctions … that centers around the distinction between the literal sentence meaning and the speaker’s utterance meaning, where the utterance meaning may depart in various ways from literal sentence meaning. …The modification that the thesis of relativity of meaning forces on that system of distinctions is that in the account of how context plays a role in the production and comprehension of metaphorical utterances, indirect speech acts, ironical utterances, and conversational implications, we will need to distinguish the special role of the context of utterance in these cases from the role that background assumptions play in the interpretation of literal meanings.

This clearly indicates the distinction made by Searle between utterance meaning and sentence meaning, even if they are both determined by context.

3 A couple of quotations from ‘Afterword: Toward an ethic Discussion’ (Limited Inc 115) lends legitimacy to Derrida’s views here.

I never proposed ‘a kind of “all or nothing” choice between pure realization of self-presence and complete freeplay or undecidability.’ I never believed in this and I never spoke of ‘complete freeeplay or undecidability’.

And again on page 148,

From the point of view of semantics…’deconstruction’ should never lead either to relativism or to any sort of indeterminism.

The quotations within the above quotes are from Searle (Caution: Subscribers’ only), that were reproduced by Gerald Graff in putting across his questions.

4 So it is not true that Derrida held that ‘the phenomenon of citationality’ (with citationality understood as quotability in the sense of mention but not of use) was ‘the same as the phenomenon of parasitic discourse’.


Derrida Contra Searle – Part 1…


The three most essential features of writing for Derrida happen to be remainder, rupture and spacing, of which the first is mirrored in weaning of a text from its origin and the second finds its congruence in severance of expression from its meaning, and all of the three happen to be graphematic. Remainder could also be thought of as writing that absents itself from the original context, while rupture is to be seen primarily as the unlikelihood of a proper context that arrests it, or confines it. Even if weaning of a text from its origin fits the bill of being graphematic, Searle’s rejects rupture as being one. This implies that the status of permanence is accorded to writing, as unlike speech, it remains in its archival form even in the absence of speaker-writer. This position is non- Derridean, as it argues against all language use as characterized by the absence of the sender. Therefore, severance of meaning from the expression is denied any special status for writing by an advantageous denomination of quotability, which, even if, not a normal purpose of quotation1, could still be a possible one. Searle’s reading of severance of meaning from an expression or rupture goes for a tailspin here, for, rupture implies a signifier to be grafted onto innumerable contexts in which sense could be derived, rather than boundations imposed upon graphemes and phonemes as simple considerations of marks and sounds respectively, and alienated from any significations they might carry when considered as mere signifiers.

Derrida most patiently and appropriately, ironically launches into his own defense against these Searlean criticisms. Irony and/or mockery rules the roost in Limited Inc., for the style is a deliberate attempt to deal with the serious/non-serious distinction in response to Searle’s tone of high disdain. In the words of Spivak (Revolutions That As Yet Have No Model), Searle’s essay is brusque and all too brief, whereas, Derrida’s is long and parodistically courteous and painstaking.

Derrida in Signature Event Context thematically points out the exclusion of writing from speech act theory, and talks about the essential predicates that minimally determine the classical notion of writing. He does this through his reading of Husserl’s Logical Investigations and The Origin of Geometry, where Husserl had indicated a suspicion on speech as underlining certain of these predicates of writing, by supposing writing to imitate speech, but unable to share in the immediate link between speech and its context of production. Even if Signature Event Context considers every sign as cited without the quotation marks, a possibility of a break with every given context leading to illimitable new contexts cannot be ruled as a crisis ridden possibility in itself. Such a crisis has resolution in Husserl through his phenomenological reduction, and in Austin through a programmatic, initial, and initiating exclusion. For Searle, writing is nothing more than a transcription of speech, and his refutation of Derrida’s take on speech and writing is too quick a translation that finds its bottom in a standard and trivial idiom. For instance, Searle clearly misinterprets Derrida by noting some marks to be only iterable by citations exemplified in quotations. It is without any doubt that Derrida considers quotation as a form of iteration or citation, but is only one such form, since for him, use of any such mark is equally a case of/for citation and iteration.2

This is misinterpretation on Searle’s part primarily due to his treating/interpreting graphematic in the classical notion of writing.

When Searle reads Signature Event Context, he reads in it the absentia of intention from writing altogether, which he bases upon the mark as separated from its origin and context of production and is clearly stated in his reply to Derrida. He (Reiterating the Differences {linked in the footnotes}) says,

Intentionality plays exactly the same role in written as well as spoken communication. What differs in the two cases is not the intentions of the speaker but the role of the context of the utterance in the success of the communication.

So, if intentions are present in writing, and contexts differentiate themselves with respect to speech and writing, leading to speech as more implicit in its form as compared to writing that happens to be explicit, one can only adduce to the fact of Searle being caught up in the classical notion of writing, with writing relegated to a lower form of language vis-à-vis speech. This is despite the fact of classical notion holding writing as dependent on speech, with Searle breaking away from it marginally by holding this dependence to be a matter of contingency in the history of human languages, rather than construed as a logical matter, and simultaneously unsubscribing from the classical notion of intentions as somehow absent from writing. Derrida sees a problem with this particular take on intentions that have hitherto sought to actualize and totalize intentionality into self-presence and self-possession.3 One cannot miss the teleological overtones of classical notions of intentionality, and the resolution lies in problematizing this notion. One such solution lies in leveling the privileged status bestowed upon writer-reader’s presence brought about by deconstruction to call back to the center the necessary possibility of the absence of sender and receiver as the positive condition of possibility of communication.4 Such a critique should not be taken to mean in Searlean style that intentionality should be done away with, or effaced, but would only lay importance to its deployment as against disappearance. Intentions could very well themselves be the effects of a desire that lead to self-identical intentions in order to produce interpretations. A limit is imposed upon such desires to prevent it from being thought in terms of a fully intending subject. These limitations, however accentuate the very functionality of intentions, lest it should only focus on Derrida’s project as absurdly nihilist. According to Derrida (Limited Inc),

What is valid for intention, always differing, deferring, and without plenitude, is also valid correlatively, for the object (qua signified or referent) thus aimed at. However, this limit, I repeat (“without” plenitude), is also the (“positive”) condition of possibility of what is thus limited.

In short, in Derrida the originary self-division of intention “limits what it makes possible while rendering its rigor or purity impossible” (Revolutions that as yet have no model). Derrida sees intention as part of the total context5 that somehow carries the ability to intrinsically determine utterances, and is rigorously put forward, when he (Limited Inc) says,

Intention, itself marked by the context, is not foreign to the formation of the total context…to treat context as a factor from which one can abstract for the sake of refining one’s analysis, is to commit oneself to a description that cannot but miss the very contents and object it claims to isolate, for they are intrinsically determined by context.

This point of understanding intentionality is crucial here, for writer’s intending is bracketed by the same context as the actual production of graphemes, and Searle, who at times vehemently rejects any distinction between intention and context invokes it in his criticism of Derrida, thus exhibiting his own conflictual stance. To achieve explicitness, writing must be able to function without the presence of the writer, and the way this is attained is when something meaningful is being said, the intention behind it exhibits its non-presence. This helps clarifying the distinction between the intention to be meaningful and intention itself, or the intended meaning. The phrase “non-presence” is misleading however, and it is loaded with absence. In actuality, these are not to be employed synonymously.5 Non-presence entails intentions as never actualized, or made fully present in the language due to dissemination. Derrida (Limited Inc) explicitly never questions intentionality, but only its teleological aspirations through his text, since these aspirations orient the movements towards the possibility of fulfilling, realizing, and actualizing in a plenitude that would be present to and identical with itself. And this is precisely the reason why Derrida calls intention as not being present wholly. This position is bound to raise suspicion in Searle, when it is largely misinterpreted that radical absence of the receiver in general should connote the absence of trace of any sender. The confusion builds up around “radical absence”, as it is taken to mean the absence of intention, which, however, is not the case. What is really communicated here is the absence of consciousness of what one intended, as is clear from the fact that if a conscious act needs to be intentional, it does not assume intention as conscious.

Searle talks about the normal and the possible purpose of quotation in a note that follows his remark (Reiterating the Differences),

We can always consider words as just sounds and marks and we can always construe pictures as just material objects. But…this possibility of separating the sign from the signified is a feature of any system of representation whatever: there is nothing especially graphematic about it at all.

If every ark is iterable, then no mark belongs to language strictly speaking. Languages could be thought of as reifications, that for someone like Donald Davidson, help us construct theories of meaning, while at the same time engaging with consistent and idiomatic speech behaviors. This might seem like loose semantic conventions and habits, but nonetheless direct towards some sort of an engagement with the likes of Joyce and Mrs. Malaprop and inculcating in us the revisionary exercise towards the theory of what language our interlocutor is speaking in line with the principle of charity. 

This is one of the reasons why Derrida calls his critique as ethico-political in nature.

This is reviewed by Spivak (Revolutions that as yet have no model {linked above}), and she calls attention to an extensive quote attributed to Derrida on the same page, that I find very insightful and hence worth reproducing it here.

To affirm…that the receiver is present at the moment when I write a shopping list for myself, and , moreover, to turn this into an argument against the essential possibility of the receiver’s absence from every mark, is to settle for the shortest, most facile analysis. If both sender and receiver were entirely present when the mark was inscribed, and if they were thus present to themselves-since, by hypothesis, being present and being-present-to- oneself are here the same-how could they even be distinguished from one another? How could the message of the shopping list circulate among them? And the same hold force, a fortiori, for the other example, in which sender and receiver are hypothetically considered to be neighbors, it is true, but still as two separate persons occupying two different places, or seats…But these notes are only writable or legible to the extent that…these two possible absences construct the possibility of the message at the very instant of my writing or his reading.

This confusion is ameliorated when one sees non-presence as designating a less negated presence, rather than getting caught up in the principally binary presence/absence opposition that is usually interpreted.

Austrian School of Economics: The Praxeological Synthetic. Thought of the Day 135.0


Within the Austrian economics (here, here, here and here), the a priori stance has dominated a tradition running from Carl Menger to Murray Rothbard. The idea here is that the basic structures of economy is entrenched in the more basic structures of human action as such. Nowhere is this more evident than in the work of Ludwig von Mises – his so-called ‘praxeology’, which rests on the fundamental axiom that individual human beings act on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals, is built from the idea that all basic laws of economy can be derived apriorically from one premiss: the concept of human action. Of course, this concept is no simple concept, containing within itself purpose, product, time, scarcity of resources, etc. – so it would be more fair to say that economics lies as the implication of the basic schema of human action as such.

Even if the Austrian economists’ conception of the a priori is decidedly objectivist and anti-subjectivist, it is important to remark their insistence on subjectivity within their ontological domain. The Austrian economics tradition is famous exactly for their emphasis on the role of subjectivity in economy. From Carl Menger onwards, they protest against the mainstream economical assumption that the economic agent in the market is fully rational, knows his own preferences in detail, has constant preferences over time, has access to all prices for a given commodity at a given moment, etc. Thus, von Mises’ famous criticism of socialist planned economy is built on this idea: the system of ever-changing prices in the market constitutes a dispersed knowledge about the conditions of resource allocation which is a priori impossible for any single agent – let alone, any central planner’s office – to possess. Thus, their conception of the objective a priori laws of the economic domain perhaps surprisingly had the implication that they warned against a too objectivist conception of economy not taking into account the limits of economic rationality stemming from the general limitations of the capacities of real subjects. Their ensuing liberalism is thus built on a priori conclusions about the relative unpredictability of economics founded on the role played by subjective intentionality. For the same reason, Hayek ended up with a distinction between simple and complex processes, respectively, cutting across all empirical disciplines, where only the former permit precise, predictive, quantitative calculi based on mathemathical modeling while the latter permit only recognition of patterns (which may also be mathematically modeled, to be sure, but without quantitative predictability). It is of paramount importance, though, to distinguish this emphasis on the ineradicable role of subjectivity in certain regional domains from Kantian-like ideas about the foundational role of subjectivity in the construction of knowledge as such. The Austrians are as much subjectivists in the former respect as they are objectivists in the latter. In the history of economics, the Austrians occupy a middle position, being against historicism on the one hand as well as against positivism on the other. Against the former, they insist that a priori structures of economy transgress history which does not possess the power to form institutions at random but only as constrained by a priori structures. And against the latter, they insist that the mere accumulation of empirical data subject to induction will never in itself give rise to the formation of theoretical insights. Structures of intelligible concepts are in all cases necessary for any understanding of empirical regularities – in so far, the Austrian a priori approach is tantamount to a non-skepticist version of the doctrine of ‘theory-ladenness’ of observations.

A late descendant of the Austrian tradition after its emigration to the Anglo-Saxon world (von Mises, Hayek, and Schumpeter were such emigrés) was the anarcho-liberal economist Murray Rothbard, and it is the inspiration from him which allows Barry Smith to articulate the principles underlying the Austrians as ‘fallibilistic apriorism’. Rothbard characterizes in a brief paper what he calls ‘Extreme Apriorism’ as follows:

there are two basic differences between the positivists’ model science of physics on the one hand, and sciences dealing with human actions on the other: the former permits experimental verification of consequences of hypotheses, which the latter do not (or, only to a limited degree, we may add); the former admits of no possibility of testing the premisses of hypotheses (like: what is gravity?), while the latter permits a rational investigation of the premisses of hypotheses (like: what is human action?). This state of affairs makes it possible for economics to derive its basic laws with absolute – a priori – certainty: in addition to the fundamental axiom – the existence of human action – only two empirical postulates are needed: ‘(1) the most fundamental variety of resources, both natural and human. From this follows directly the division of labor, the market, etc.; (2) less important, that leisure is a consumer good’. On this basis, it may e.g. be inferred, ‘that every firm aims always at maximizing its psychic profit’.

Rothbard draws forth this example so as to counterargue traditional economists who will claim that the following proposition could be added as a corollary: ‘that every firm aims always at maximizing its money profit’. This cannot be inferred and is, according to Rothbard, an economical prejudice – the manager may, e.g. prefer for nepotistic reasons to employ his stupid brother even if that decreases the firm’s financial profit possibilities. This is an example of how the Austrians refute the basic premiss of absolute rationality in terms of maximal profit seeking. Given this basis, other immediate implications are:

the means-ends relationship, the time-structure of production, time-preference, the law of diminishing marginal utility, the law of optimum returns, etc.

Rothbard quotes Mises for seeing the fundamental Axiom as a ‘Law of Thought’ – while he himself sees this as a much too Kantian way of expressing it, he prefers instead the simple Aristotelian/Thomist idea of a ‘Law of Reality’. Rothbard furthermore insists that this doctrine is not inherently political – in order to attain the Austrians’ average liberalist political orientation, the preference for certain types of ends must be added to the a priori theory (such as the preference for life over death, abundance over poverty, etc.). This also displays the radicality of the Austrian approach: nothing is assumed about the content of human ends – this is why they will never subscribe to theories about Man as economically rational agent or Man as necessarily economical egotist. All different ends meet and compete on the market – including both desire for profit in one end and idealist, utopian, or altruist goals in the other. The principal interest, in these features of economical theory is the high degree of awareness of the difference between the – extreme – synthetic a priori theory developed, on the one hand, and its incarnation in concrete empirical cases and their limiting conditions on the other.


Triangulations on Linguistic Phenomenology: Austin, Seattle and Derrida

Even if the main motive behind How to do Things With Words is a description of total speech situations, Austin admits to his work as linguistic phenomenology in order to investigate the uses of everyday linguistic practices in situations where for some reasons, these practices could prove defective. This stance only opens up Austin’s position to re-description of total speech situations if any implausibility sets in.

A speech act could be infelicitous, happy or unhappy, and Austin attaches a parasitic tag to the speech act, when it can mean either non-serious usage falling outside the proper context of linguistic use, or an abnormal placement within the context of linguistic use. Searle wholeheartedly agrees with the parasitic tag when it is employed within language in a facetious manner. Parasitic feeding upon the speech acts could either be pretentious or metaphorical, yet real illocutionary acts. In short, a status of dependency is accorded to such parasitic acts. If one looks at the fictional discourse, it is the reference that becomes parasitic, for even if the failure of the reference happens to be error prone, in case of pretentious speech acts, this error is simply replaced by a parasitic reference. If for Austin, non-serious utterances infect the speech acts, thus impacting its normal use on the way, and thereby falling under the doctrine of etiolations (to cause, make pale) of language, then this clearly entails Austin’s faith in the theory of performative utterances that include non-serious, abnormal utterances that impact the normal usage of speech act. Now in order to discover any nexus between these non-serious, abnormal discursive practices with infelicities, even if abnormalities are culpable of misinvoking conventional references and commands/orders, one has to fall back onto Searle’s invocation of intentionality of the speaker to sort out the said connection. The problem, however, in Austin lies in the derogatory sense attached to these abnormalities with the use of the word ‘infection’, thus aligning these pejorative senses even to the parasitic instances of speech acts. Searle breaks free from this pejorative sense, and even argued that Austin himself never meant any derogatory sense for ‘parasitic’ manner.

Derrida criticizes this positionality of Austin’s parasitic discourses, while Searle comes to Austin’s defense, in turn opening up the gates for Derrida criticizing Searle’s more refined theory of parasitic discourse. Derrida’s criticism of Austin rests on the former’s use of iterability, dissemination and citationality. Even if utterances are repeatable, they carry seeds of alterations, and hence iterability. Derrida’s analysis of speech and writing clearly exhibits that utterances are irreducibly polysemic thus underlining any particular/singular/univocal meaning attached with them, and hence dissemination. Citationality refers to every utterance being called upon during repetition to unveil sameness and difference with the previous such utterance thus throwing open the field for further modification. Derrida’s reading of Austin takes on two implications, a principle of citationality in Austin, and an impossibility of determining the performative act that is either normal or parasitic. In other words, Derrida criticizes the notion of felicity conditions, even if he holds true beliefs towards the potency of illocutionary acts to enable language undergo transformations. He never believes in the success of a performative utterances as rule-based upon conventions.

The real problem begins with Searle’s understanding of Derrida, which is nothing short of poor interpretation. Searle’s type/token distinction gets muddled up in Derrida’s iterability. For the former, when one says that an element in linguistics is iterable, is just to say that logicians’ type-token distinction must apply to all rule-governed elements of language in order that the rules can be applied to new occurrences of phenomenon specified by the rules. Without this feature of iterability, there could not be the possibility of producing an infinite number of sentences with a finite list of elements. A cursory reading is enough to show the paucity of this logic.