What Is A Number? Re-Thinking Derrida's Concept of Infinity

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Iterability, the repetition which alters the idealization it reproduces, is the engine of deconstructive movement. The fact that all experience is transformative-dissimulative in its essence does not, however, mean that the momentum of change is the same for all situations. Derrida adapts Husserl's distinction between a bound and a free ideality to draw up a contrast between mechanical mathematical calculation, whose in-principle infinite enumerability is supposedly meaningless, empty of content, and therefore not in itself subject to alteration through contextual change, and idealities such as spoken or written language which are directly animated by a meaning-to-say and are thus immediately affected by context. Derrida associates the dangers of cultural stagnation, paralysis and irresponsibility with the emptiness of programmatic, mechanical, formulaic thinking. This paper endeavors to show that enumerative calculation is not context-independent in itself but is instead immediately infused with alteration, thereby making incoherent Derrida's claim to distinguish between a free and bound ideality. Along with the presumed formal basis of numeric infinitization, Derrida's non-dialectical distinction between forms of mechanical or programmatic thinking (the Same) and truly inventive experience (the absolute Other) loses its justification. In the place of a distinction between bound and free idealities is proposed a distinction between two poles of novelty; the first form of novel experience would be characterized by affectivites of unintelligibility , confusion and vacuity, and the second by affectivities of anticipatory continuity and intimacy.
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