Parmenides’ Hinge (1999)

[This was my first real attempt to make myself comprehensible to my professors, a kind of primer to a potential prospectus. I was pissed when it failed, I remember that much, but rereading it now I find it difficult to believe that I had actually believed it would succeed. Unfortunately, I have lost the original diagrams and simply cannot recall what they looked like. Rather than improvise something different I elected to simply note that the diagram is missing.]

Parmenide’s Hinge

We cannot lay hold of the new, we cannot even keep it before our minds, much less understand it, save by the use of ideas and knowledge we already possess. But just because the new is new it is not the mere repetition of something already had and mastered. The old takes on new color and meaning in being employed to grasp and interpret the new. The greater the gap, the disparity, between what has become a familiar possession and the traits presented in new subject-matter, the greater is the burden imposed by reflection; the distance between the old and new is the measure of the range and depth of thought required.

                                                                                                     Dewey, Experience and Nature

1. Framing the Problem: Some Puzzles

 The assumption is that all is not right in philosophy. Strike out in any direction across the philosophical terrain and one quickly reaches a point where meaningful debate collapses. If one follows the fault-lines of these points of collapse, one will find that they roughly demarcate the ‘three solitudes’ of contemporary philosophy in the English speaking world: traditional ‘analytic’ philosophy, pragmatism, and so-called ‘continental’ philosophy.

The further assumption is that this situation need not be the case, that there is a better way. But this itself presupposes that there is a different way, that there is an alternative terrain–something which is not at all that clear. And yet there is only one way to find out: one must explore possibilities.

I term these general positions ‘solitudes’ not because they are without numerous exceptions, borderline cases, and the like, but because I think that at the core each of these orientations fundamentally misapprehends the other. They are, I would hazard, at perpetual cross purposes. And I think I can offer a preliminary explanation as to why.

Russell says that a “logical theory may be tested by its capacity for dealing with puzzles.”[1] The same might be said, I would hazard, about philosophical theories. At the very least, puzzles are good at generating possibilities, even if only because they show us the limitations of those possibilities which we already have. Through considering several puzzles I hope to assemble a number of ‘curiosities.’ These curiosities along with the questions which fall out from them, I hope to show, provide a powerful means for understanding the stakes involved in the three solitudes.

Consider the ‘liar’s paradox’:

This sentence is false.

What is it that renders this paradoxical? Self-reference is the obvious explanation. The sentence asserts that its own assertion is false. But how is it that a sentence can assert something of its own asserting? Well, the sentence refers to its own referring. The sentence, in other words, performs something (insofar as reading is an act). What it performs is its reference. What it refers to is its performance.

The ‘short-circuit,’ then, can be understood in more substantive terms than the infinite oscillation of truth-values. The sentence performs its reference to its performance of its reference to its performance of its reference and so on, ad infinitum. This is why a ‘paradoxical air’ hangs about self-referential sentences period, why

This sentence is true

is in some respects as strange, if not more. It is as though the relation of performance and reference in such sentences were analogous to the relation of frame and framed. In the performance of the reference to the performance, the frame is precisely what is framed. Munchausen like, self-referential sentences hold themselves up by their own hair. The problem with such sentences, the suggestion might be, is that they violate what might be called ‘performance-reference asymmetry,’ that is, they attempt to frame their own frame.

We have, then, at least three moments which we can isolate: the relation of performance to reference, the relation of reference to performance, and the paradox which arises when their relation is symmetrical rather than asymmetrical. Our three solitudes, I want to argue, can be understood in terms of these three moments. Traditional analytic philosophy, for instance, might be called reference-emphatic; pragmatism, performance-emphatic, and continental philosophy, paradox-emphatic. The problem with contemporary philosophy, the argument will be, is that each of these emphatic orientations attempt to reduce, dissolve, or dismiss the others when each is in fact as ‘basic’ as the others. The further difficulty, the one which assures the solitude of each of these emphases, is that although this might seem clear within the context of a single self-referential sentence, in the general field of philosophical discourse one does not ‘bump into periods’ as it were–at least not in the same definitive way. It is much easier, in other words, to gloss over the problems of ‘dogmatic emphasis’ when one’s emphatic interpretations have, if not unlimited application, then at least application enough to convince the frail and finite philosopher that they are on the ‘right track.’ Of course, I will have to make good on this claim.

But to simply assign each solitude a certain emphasis is not to say much. We need to understand what distinguishes these emphases, and how they are related. Consider a further puzzle

The word ‘future’ is now in the future of this sentence, although by now it is not.

Prima facie, this sentence might seem merely nonsensical, and perhaps it is, particularly given that it demands ‘now’ to be understood in some kind of ‘super-indexical’ sense, that is, as referring to the very instant of its utterance within the time taken to complete the sentence. What interests me, however, is that it might be read in at least two ways. If one considers the sentence after the fact, there is a sense in which in it is actually true. It really was the case that at the instant indicated by the first occurrence of ‘now’ the word ‘future’ was in the future of this sentence. If, on the other hand, one considers the act of reading this sentence for the first time, then it is hard to see how it could possibly make sense. It is only with the completion of the sentence–that is, after the instants indicated by ‘now’ have come and gone–that we can understand what it means. To rephrase a remark James once cribbed from Kierkegaard: ‘We read forward and understand backward.’[2]

Now one might object that this is trivial in two senses. Of course a sentence must be completed before we can understand what it means, and of course it is only after the fact that we can say that something was true of the future relative to a certain instant. The puzzle, however, is this: The after the fact reading is not a reading at all. If the after the fact ‘reading’ makes sense, it is only because it assumes that the two occurrences of ‘now’ now refer to past moments of time–which is precisely not what the two occurrences refer to in the act of reading the sentence. The after the fact ‘reading,’ in other words, is simply a consideration of our reading after the fact, and is not itself a reading. But the sentence, as has already been pointed out, is meaningless in the act of reading. The significance of the ‘super-indexicality’ of the two occurrences of ‘now’ can only make sense after the sentence is completed. This sentence, it would seem, cannot be read in any way that makes sense, and yet it makes sense.

Something strange, and yet profoundly important is going on here. Even if the ‘super-indexicality’ of the two occurrences of ‘now’ is something of a syntactic monstrosity, it is not as though there is no ‘now of reading’ for them to refer to. The problem is precisely that there is. This sentence generates this particular problem, I would argue, not merely because it is self-referential, but because it is temporally so. It makes sense ‘after the fact’ only because, safely ensconced in a further moment, we can fix a time other than now to it. In other words, from the standpoint of a further performance (the act of ‘reflecting’ on our reading), it seems to make sense. One might think of this in terms of what Quine calls ‘semantic ascent,’ although what is crucial is not that we take the sentence as our object, but that we take our act of reading the sentence as our object from the standpoint of a further act. Perhaps ‘retrospective ascent’ might be a more apt description.

Now this is curious because it demonstrates that the ‘asymmetry’ between performance and reference suggested by the pathology of self-referential sentences is in some sense temporal. On the one hand, there is the time of performing the sentence, the time to which the occurrences of ‘now,’ understood super-indexically, refer. On the other hand there is the ‘time’ of reference, whatever this might be. The former time, one might say, is irreflexive. Each ‘now’ in the sentence refers to a different time. It is our retrospective assumption of this which allows us to say that it was indeed the case that the word ‘future’ was in the future relative to the first ‘now,’ and in the past relative to the second ‘now.’ The latter ‘time,’ on the other hand, seems to demand that this irreflexive time of the performance of reference not be referred to. Reference, it seems, demands a kind of ‘temporal decompression,’ that the moment of reading be what has been called the ‘standing now’; in other words, that the now be reflexive. The asymmetry of performance and reference exhibited by the liar’s paradox, it would seem, is somehow related to a paradox which is equally ancient: the paradox of the now (and this, to say the least, does not bode well for the question of performance and reference).

Aristotle, in his celebrated discussion of the difficulty [aporia] of time in the Physics, refers to this very problem: that the now [nun] must be both irreflexive and reflexive. Each now is in a sense a different now, and yet in another sense the same now. This is made quite clear in our sentence. The super-indexicality of ‘now’ places the irreflexive aspect of the moment of reading at odds with the reflexive aspect, the aspect which allows us to conserve the time it takes to articulate the sentence in a single moment of understanding.

We have a sentence the performance of which is unintelligible, but which upon subsequent reflection seems to make sense. The performance is unintelligible simply because the sentence refers to the time of its performance. Only when the super-indexical ‘nows’ are assigned past references via ‘retrospective ascent,’ that is, through a further moment which does not make reference to the time of its own performance, can we make sense of this sentence. Somehow we are able to make sense of a sentence that we cannot read. This is admittedly difficult to think, but then this is what makes a puzzle puzzling.

One should note what might be called the ‘transparency of performance.’ What makes this sentence problematic is that it refers to the irreflexive moment of its performance, and not that there is an irreflexive moment of its performance. This is both a banal and a remarkable observation; banal because obviously the sentence must be performed in some way in order to refer, and remarkable because that very performance, as a condition of successful reference, must go on ‘behind the scenes’ as it were. This simply means that if a given performance ‘frames’ reference, then this frame cannot be referred to, cannot itself be framed. Performative transparency, in other words, is another way to state performance-reference asymmetry.

And yet, it would seem to be the case that performative transparency is not a condition of making meaningful statements. Consider so-called ‘belief contexts’ such as

Smith believes that p.

Here the proposition p and its performative context (believing) would seem to be included in the same sentence without detriment. But is this the case? Certainly not. The performative context of this sentence is rather

I am writing ‘Smith believes that p.’

Which is itself framed by the further performative context

I am writing ‘I am writing ‘Smith believes that p.’’

And so on, ad infinitum. In every case, the act of writing (or the act of reading) provides the transparent frame for the sentence. I am sitting before the computer, 8:34 PM, September 13th 1999, in Nashville Tennessee, writing these words. But even in the course of referring to this frame moments have elapsed. Even though I can refer to my frame of referring I cannot refer, due to performance-reference asymmetry, to the further frame of this reference. Let us call this ‘further frame’ the ‘THIS-frame,’ where ‘THIS’ is understood as a super-indexical, as referring to the very performance of its reference. Insofar as this ‘reference’ violates performance-reference asymmetry, one might complain that it renders it paradoxical. Indeed it is, but it is a paradox which can be understood, like our temporal self-referential sentence, after the fact. The possibility of having its performative context framed within a further performative paradox is something that belongs to every sentence. One can always ‘go meta’ as it were. THIS-frame is merely the transparent ‘meta-context’ of our assertions, which, like the painter or the photographer, never appears in the portrait.

Even though ascriptions of propositional attitudes do not constitute an exception from performative transparency one would still want to say that

Smith believes that p

is different than


even if it somehow fails to ‘include’ its performative context. This difference, of course, was among the motivations for Frege’s postulation of sense. The difference is precisely that ‘p’ cannot be substituted salva veritate by say ‘q,’ even though ‘q’ refers to the same object as ‘p,’ because Smith might not believe that q. The standing challenge of such sentences is to find a way of preserving semantic compositionality without eliding the significance of propositional attitudes (particularly with respect to their usefulness in explaining behaviour). And yet, things become less clear if one reframes the question of difference as follows, and suggests that

I believe that p,

 is different than


Are these actually different? Well, it seems that my assertion that p is the same as my assertion that I believe that p. But this cannot be the case. My assertion that p might be false when it is true that I still believe that p. And yet, in a sense, all that changes between these statements is that the former refers to a fact of its performative context that is simply implicit in the transparent performative context of the latter, namely, my belief that p. The latter, in other words, might be rewritten as

[I believe that] p.

But what possible sense could this make? Whether or not ‘p’ is true depends upon p, and whether or not ‘I believe that p’ is true depends upon whether or not I believe that p. It would seem, in other words, that questions of truth follow the THIS-frame. By making explicit part of the performative context of the assertion that ‘p’ the reference of ‘p,’ as Frege was well aware, is ‘suspended.’ This is because, since the question of truth ‘follows’ the THIS-frame, the question becomes one of whether the expressed performative context (as opposed to the expressing) is itself true. Placing the assertion that p in a belief context amounts to framing the frame of the assertion that p, namely, that I believe that p. Making the performative context explicit, in other words, amounts to transforming THIS-frame into some that-frame.

And yet, it would seem that the relation between

Smith believes that p



is different than the relationship between

I believe that p



Why might this be? The primary difference is that in the latter, first-person case it seemed that that-frame (my belief) simply was THIS-frame. In both instances, the performative context was arguably mine. What was explicit in the former was merely implicit in the latter. Whereas in the former, third-person case, the that-frame, which is Smith’s frame, is quite clearly different than THIS-frame. But as we saw, the first-person case does not differ from the third-person case. And what this suggests is that THIS-frame is not mine at all.[3] And this, I would hazard, is attested to by the fact that it is you, and not me, who is reading at THIS moment.

If this last claim sounds surprising, consider assertions as speech acts. As contextualized speech acts, assertions are chararacterized by their tendency to obscure their context of utterance. This is why indexicals are needed in order to refer to the context of utterance of assertions, when they are not needed for, say, ‘directives.’ There is no ‘hereby’ moment in assertions: when one says ‘Socrates is white,’ one is not saying ‘At this moment I declare that I believe that Socrates is white,’ but simply that Socrates is white. The fact that one is at that moment declaring their belief that Socrates is white is obscured. We don’t hear a verbal performance relativized to a performative context, instead we hear that ‘Socrates is white,’ that is, we are referred to a fact. When one declares their belief that Socrates is white, on the other hand, we are referred to a claim.

We say of the Aztecs, for instance, ‘They thought that the conquistadors were gods, and that horses were half-human deer.’ The Aztecs themselves, however, said something like

Conquistadors are gods, and horses are half-human deer.

In other words, what is a contextualized that-frame for us was THIS-frame for them. We make assertions about what they believed, whereas they made assertions about what conquistadors and horses were. In moving from this assertion to the ascription of this propositional attitude, one is taking an assertion which purports to be true and relativizing it to a certain people at a certain time in a certain place, which is to say, to a performative context. Since truth follows THIS-frame, suspending the ‘thisness’ (or the transparency) of a frame amounts to ‘suspending’ the truth of the assertion from the standpoint of some further frame. We make transparent contexts opaque all the time, but only from the standpoint of some further transparent context. And it is within this further frame that the question of truth obtains.

Two things of note. First, this is deeply interesting with reference to the puzzle of propositional attitudes. It seems to explain, in a manner, why it is that no compositional semantics has been able to accommodate belief contexts (at least convincingly). The suggestion here might be that natural languages differ from formal languages in their ability to accommodate a plurality of frames, whereas logic, given that truth follows THIS-frame, must somehow ‘reduce’ everything to THIS-frame. When referential theories of meaning, for instance, simply insist that substitution does in fact work in belief contexts–that if Smith believes that p he must also, given that p = q, believe that q even though he knows nothing of q–the ‘bubble in the carpet,’ so to speak, becomes one of explaining away belief. When sense theories of meaning, on the other hand, attempt to preserve substitution by insisting, with Frege, that that-clauses in belief contexts refer to the ‘customary sense’ of an assertion, the difficulty becomes one of explaining precisely what ‘sense’ could possibly be without collapsing it into a psychology which renders communication difficult to understand. And yet, given that truth follows THIS-frame, one would expect that a compositional semantics could only follow natural language up to the point where it articulates alternate frames. At that point, one must ‘become Smith,’ or ‘go Aztec,’ that is, inhabit those performative contexts (translate that-frame into THIS-frame) in order to assess their truth claims.

But this is cryptic. What, for instance, could ‘truth follows THIS-frame’ possibly mean? There is, I would suggest, a ‘minimalist’ way of answering this question. Consider the disquotational schema

‘The snow is white’ is true if and only if the snow is white.

This, one might argue, is simply an austere formula for the translation of a particular that-frame into THIS-frame. To say that some that-frame ‘is true’ is merely to say that it belongs, or should belong, to THIS-frame. ‘True’ refers the mention, that is, an assertion taken as the object of THIS-frame, to the use, the assertion as asserted within THIS-frame. This explains why there must be as many axioms as statements in this ‘theory of truth.’ As we witnessed, there is no way to exhaust THIS-frame. And perhaps this also explains why a substantive account of truth is so difficult to sustain. Because it constitutes a further assertion with its own frame, the assertion, for instance, that ‘truth is correspondence to the real’ simply begs the interminably ‘open’ question ‘but is this true?’

So what, then, is THIS-frame? This I cannot answer, although I take it that philosophy has in fact been answering this very question for over two millennia–it could not help but do otherwise. And this, I hope to show, is precisely the problem.

For those who remain dubious about THIS-frame, however, they need only note that the following statement is true

I asserted that the Aztecs believed that horses were half-human deer,

as is

I just asserted that I asserted that the Aztecs believed that horses were half-human deer,

and so on. Although transparent, THIS-frame is a fact. The question is not whether there is such a ‘thing,’ but rather what it is, and what its significance might be. Thus far, all that has been suggested is that ‘it’ is related to performance-reference asymmetry, the fact that the performative context of reference remains occluded–at least in non-self-referential assertions.

The second, and in my opinion, more remarkable thing to note is the fact that assertions are ‘logical’ when transparent and ‘contingent’ when opaque. This is remarkable because although performance-reference asymmetry legislates performative transparency this does not mean that the performative context of a reference is nonetheless ‘there.’ The performative context of an assertion is simply ‘occluded’ when we are related to things logically. And this suggests that we are related to the world both logically, that is, insofar as our assertions are either true or false regardless of context, and contingently, that is, insofar as our assertions are determined by our performative context.

But how could our assertions be both contingently and logically related to the world? If the question of the nature of THIS-frame is one philosophy cannot help but answer, this question is the one which philosophy has been unable to properly pose, let alone answer.

Obviously we have strayed onto very strange terrain. The hope, of course, is that the possibilities which sound the strangest at first might prove to be the most profitable in the long run. Moreover, the fact is that philosophy is very strange business–period. Given this, the tacit injunction against taking philosophical risks should strike us as curious (unless we have naturalized everything). Besides, we shall be returned to familiar ground shortly–but in a startlingly different way.

Perhaps we should pause and collect the series of strange possibilities we have collected so far. We began with the Liar’s Paradox, and with the suggestion that its paradoxicality arises from its violation of what might be called performance-reference asymmetry. Then we considered a temporally self-referential sentence, which led us to the paradoxical distinction between the irreflexive now and the reflexive now. The suggestion then was that we could make sense of this sentence even though we could not read it because of ‘retrospective ascent,’ the after the fact circumvention of the super-indexicality of the two occurrences of ‘now’ from a further moment. The inability to read this sentence, it was then suggested, was again related to performance-reference asymmetry, to the fact that the performative context had to be ‘transparent.’ But this requirement was undermined, it seemed, by the question of so-called belief contexts, and it was in the process of demonstrating that this was not the case that we arrived at the perplexing question of the ‘super-indexical THIS-frame.’ This led us to two questions, one which philosophy could not help but answer, and another which philosophy has been unable to properly pose: the question of the nature and significance of THIS-frame, and the question of how our assertions could both contingently and logically relate us to the world.

2. The Problem of Frames: Parmenides’ Hinge

It is strange that, given the degree to which it is invoked, there is so little literature that asks what motivates the dichotomy between the so-called ‘theoretical and practical attitudes.’ The feud between Parmenides and Heraclitus is as ancient as philosophy itself, and one finds it throughout the tradition in many forms: as the dichotomy of Becoming and Being, of phronesis and theoria, of act and thing, of Spirit and idea, of inner sense and outer sense, of will and representation, of the will to power and the will to truth, of duree and space, of noesis and noema, of Existenz and Realität, of power and knowledge, of knowing-how and knowing-that–and so on. By suggesting that the three solitudes can be understood in terms of the dichotomy of performance and reference, I am claiming that contemporary philosophy is merely the continuation in different guise of the oldest of quarrels.

But the question, again, is one of what motivates this ancient quarrel. The crux of the problem, I would like to suggest, lies right here, in THIS-frame–our frame now. THIS-frame, it would seem, is susceptible of two basic and apparently exclusive determinations: as reflexive and as irreflexive. The reason this ‘hinge’ is so difficult to ‘see’ lies in our tendency to burden it with further default determinations. No doubt many of you have already decided what THIS-frame must be: for some it will be the ‘rational a priori,’ for others the ‘mind’ or the ‘brain,’ for others ‘linguistic practices,’ and for still others ‘the impossibility of escaping the metaphysics of presence.’ These ‘basic determinations,’ in other words, find themselves buried beneath further determinations. Swaddled in these determinations, we sally forth to misunderstand one another.

The claim, in other words, is that THIS-frame has taken many, many different guises throughout the history of philosophy. For Berkeley THIS-frame is Spirit, and for Hume it is literally the ‘nowhere,’ the ‘theatre which is not a theatre,’ wherein one finds impressions and ideas. For the early Wittgenstein it is the ‘metaphysical subject’ as coincident with logic as the ‘limit of the world,’ and for the later Wittgenstein, a ‘form of life.’ For Homer it is ‘transcendental’ heteronomy, the god, or some muse, whereas for Kant it is transcendental autonomy. For Heidegger it is the ‘opening of being,’ and for Derrida the aporetic mark of ‘originary repetition.’ And yet these further determinations must be somehow ‘bracketed’ if the significance of THIS-frame is to be understood. This is not to suggest that this hinge must be apprehended in its ‘purity,’ far from it in fact. Rather, we must confront THIS-frame for what the history of philosophy suggests that it is: an enigma. Only through such a confrontation will any answer to the question of motivation become clear.

But even if the enigmatic character of this hinge is obvious, enigmas do not make for good departure points. If I am to provide an understanding of what motivates this quarrel, I will need to make ‘determinations’ of my own; but attenuated determinations to be sure, if the enigmatic character of the hinge is to remain in view. My strategy, then, will be to provide what I hope to be a plausible list of the theoretical ‘tendencies’ associated with either end of the hinge; in essence, the tendencies associated with each of our solitudes. On the basis of these I will then attempt to answer the question of motive, and thus shed light on the theoretical reasons why the three solitudes are in fact solitudes, rather than say, ‘complementary modes of consideration.’

To begin, then, it would perhaps be worthwhile to consider historical examples where this hinge explicitly comes to the fore. Without situating this hinge within the tradition, it might easily seem to be arbitrary, something foisted on philosophy from within. But it is, as I have suggested, very old. Consider Parmenides and his prohibition against thinking that what is not must be:

Fr. 7 restrain your thought from this way, nor let inured custom [ethos polupeiron] force [biasth ] your heedless eye, your echoing ear and tongue, to be swayed by this way; but judge by reason [krinai de log s] the difficult proof that I have spoken.[4]

The two ‘ways,’ here, the way of misdirection and the way of truth, I would suggest, refer to (or exemplify) our two basic determinations of THIS-frame, albeit through further determinations. Our hinge, then, might be aptly called ‘Parmenides’ Hinge.’ And the problem of Parmenides’ Hinge might be expressed thus: Given the contemporaneity of transparency and performative context, how are they related? Is THIS-frame, for instance, assimilated to custom, such that this paper is merely the reperformance according to the ‘customs’ of a highly specialized institutional context, or is it rather assimilated to reason, such that it transparently presents what is true?

One finds Parmenides’ Hinge surfacing with even greater clarity in Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. Claiming that duty, or the universal standpoint, is foregrounded with greater clarity the more interests inveigh against it, Kant turns to the moment of their interrelation:

Here we see philosophy brought to what is, in fact, a precarious position, which should be made fast even though it is supported by nothing in either heaven or earth. Here philosophy must show its purity, as the absolute sustainer of its laws, and not as the herald of laws which an implanted sense or who knows what tutelary nature whispers to it.[5]

It is paramount that philosophy guard itself against drives (implanted senses) or cultural prejudices (tutelary natures). The ‘paramount demand’ here is merely the demand that biological and social contexts not foul the transparency of philosophy, that we somehow guarantee the purity of the theoretical attitude. Philosophy’s ‘precarious position,’ in other words, is the hinge between heteronomy and autonomy, the irreflexivity of contexts and the reflexivity of transparency.

Just how precarious this position is, however, is ‘revealed’ by Nietzsche:

What? You admire the categorical imperative within you? This ‘firmness’ of your so-called moral judgement? This ‘unconditional’ feeling that ‘here everyone must judge as I do’? Rather admire your selfishness at this point. And the blindness, pettiness, and frugality of your selfishness. For it is selfish to experience one’s own judgement as a universal law.[6]

For Nietzsche, the question of the value of values reveals the tendentiousness of the attempt to abstract from performative contexts, to secure the transparency of THIS-frame. By asking the value of values, Nietzsche is, in effect, framing THIS-frame as a certain that-frame. THIS-frame, Nietzsche is arguing, is always that-frame, the will to power. As such, all attempts to secure the ‘purity of reason’ become disguised (‘unhealthy’) bids for power; what he calls the ‘will to truth.’

Nietzsche, in other words, snaps Parmenides’ Hinge and argues that performative contexts (under a specific determination) always come first. The transparency of performative contexts is illusory. For Parmenides and Kant, on the other hand, it is only by transcending performative contexts that one can avoid illusion; or as the Eleatic stranger puts it in Plato’s Sophist, that one might find symmetry between aim and accomplishment in the search for truth. The transparency of performative contexts, in other words, comes first.

A third question has been added to the previous two. What is THIS-frame? How can it be both reflexive and irreflexive? And now: Which comes first?

3. Three Emphases

Given that THIS-frame is a fact, that it is enigmatic, and that it is crucial to philosophy, we are ready to chart the tendencies which seem to pertain to its various manifestations.

The hinge might be expressed in the following, rather odd way. For instance, considered super-indexically,

THIS-frame is not THIS-frame

is not a contradiction, and neither is

THIS-frame is THIS-frame

a tautology. The former, if we grant that it is intelligible, is not a contradiction simply because it takes time to read the sentence. The second ‘THIS-frame’ is uttered in a different moment, and is thus arguably a different frame. The latter, if we grant that it is intelligible, is not a tautology for precisely the same reason. It asserts, rather, that the difference in moments does not amount to a difference in frames. The former, one might say, regards THIS-frame irreflexively, whereas the latter regards THIS-frame reflexively.

Assertions, as we have seen, simultaneously possess ‘two directions.’ The ‘forward’ direction of their contingent performance, and the ‘backward’ direction of their logical reference. Perhaps they might be diagrammatically represented thus


This diagram allows us to schematically represent the differences which are at stake with our respective emphases. Since our understanding of paradox-emphatic positions is in some respect dependent upon our prior understanding of both performance-emphatic and reference-emphatic positions, the diagram for the type of paradox-emphatic position one finds in much contemporary continental philosophy will be provided later. The diagram for reference-emphatic positions, however, might be


The performative axis is essentially transparent, such that reference to the world seems to be all that is significant. Obviously it is the world (or its representation) which is referred to, but why specify it as ‘world-as-object’? As we shall see, reference-emphasis tends to construe relations externally. The terms of a set of relations are constitutive of those relations, and not the other way around. The diagram for performance-emphatic positions, on the other hand, might be


Here the transparency of the performative axis is illusory, such that references become subsidiary moments within a broader performative context. Once again the world is crucial, but as ‘language-games,’ ‘social practices,’ and so on–in other words, as performative contexts. The tendency for performance-emphatic positions, then, is converse to that of reference emphasis: the terms of a set of relations are subordinated to the relations themselves. Performance emphasis construes relations internally. The relationship between an event and its context, for instance, is constitutive. Objects have no meaning outside of their integration into ‘our’ practices.

But this remains the most schematic of distinctions. If this ‘contest of emphases’ is to be fully understood, these distinctions must be further refined. Why is it, one might ask, that performative transparency, or the reflexivity of THIS-frame, entails a corresponding ‘object emphasis’ as opposed to the ‘relation emphasis’ that one finds in performance-emphatic positions? This is by no means an easy question to answer, but I will attempt to sketch the shape such an answer might take. In the process, some further, crucial distinctions will come to light.

Recall what was said with reference to ‘retrospective ascent’ above: it was from the standpoint of a further moment that we could make sense of the temporal relations between the instant of the word ‘future’ and the instants referred to by ‘now.’ Living through those ‘nows’ these relations escaped us. This was why we could not read the sentence. After the fact, however, when we could see the ‘nows’ as discrete, as ‘those nows’ rather than as thisnow, and when, furthermore, we could assign another discrete moment to the use of the word ‘future,’ we could see that the sentence was in some strange sense true, even though we could not read it. Retrospective ascent, in other words, allowed us to grasp as simultaneous what we had irreflexively lived through in the act of reading. As Kant points out in the Transcendental Aesthetic, we tend to understand time ‘by analogy’ to points on a line to which we ascribe succession.[7]

Two things are of note, here. First, the time of retrospective ascent is reflexive (the now is conserved). It must be if we are to grasp the moments requisite to understanding the sentence simultaneously. Second, the character of the nows from the standpoint of retrospective ascent is drastically different than their ‘through character.’ As framed within a further frame, the nows take on the characteristics of objects, that is, they possess discrete self-identity and seem to be only externally related to the other moments so framed. Let us draw a distinction, then, between ‘framed moments’ and ‘framing moments.’ And yet a further distinction is required. The framing moment of our inability to read the sentence, of ‘irreflexively living through’ those-nows as this-now, is distinct from the framing moment of our reflexive, retrospective understanding of those-nows as those-nows. Let us call the former framing moment the ‘forward moment,’ and the latter the ‘backward moment.’

These distinctions may seem gratuitously obscure, but in a sense they are quite intuitive. The distinctions are merely those between the moment of representing and the moment represented on the one hand (a distinction common to narratology), and between the moment of performance and the moment of reference on the other. The obscurity arises from the fact that the latter two would seem to constitute the same moment. But this is merely a version of the problem of the contemporaneity of ‘truth’ and ‘contingency’ noted earlier. The backward moment both is and is not a forward moment. If this were not the case then the sentence would be either wholly unintelligible or wholly intelligible. The sentence merely makes this contemporaneity explicit by forcing the two moments ‘apart.’

With these distinctions in hand we can hazard a claim regarding the object-emphasis which corresponds reference-emphasis. To say that ‘nows are simultaneous, self-identical, and discrete’ from the standpoint of retrospective ascent is to say that they find themselves figured across the same background. And it is against this same background that the relations between them can be made explicit. The condition of this ‘same background’ would seem to be the reflexivity of THIS-frame. Reference-emphatic positions are object-emphatic, the suggestion might be, because they somehow provide/discover the stationary frame necessary to render ‘objects’ discrete, and to thus map out the relations which obtain between them (what might be called ‘lateral discretion’) and between them and us (what might be called ‘medial discretion’).

Given this, one might also understand why it is that performance-emphatic positions are correspondingly relation-emphatic. What happens if we insist that THIS-frame is primarily irreflexive? Denying the reflexivity of THIS-frame, and thus depriving these nows of any stationary frame, prevents us from considering them as objects. Self-identical objects are unintelligible without a stationary frame. In performance-emphatic positions the frame is mobile, and what this means is that references to ‘objects’ are always subordinate to the ‘movement’ of the frame. Objects, in other words, become moments or moves within a mobile frame, however this might be determined, as the will to power, as language-games, as an existentiell project, or as some other inflection of normative contexts. Accordingly, the relations which characterize this mobile frame determine the significance of ‘objects.’

Where a reference-emphatic position will consider action in terms of certain dynamic relations obtaining between objects within a stationary frame (for example, the world as the totality of objects), a performative-emphatic position will make action itself the mobile frame (for example, the world as the totality of practices) within which things such as ‘objects’ can be said to have any significance. Where the reference-emphatic position ‘confronts’ a world of grounded things, the performance-emphatic position must ‘work through’ a world of self-grounding normative practices. This is the difference between the world-as-object and the world-as-context.

4. Reference-emphatic Positions: Analytic Philosophy

The broad shape of philosophical orientations, the suggestion is, will vary depending upon the default determinations which accrue to THIS-frame. In the interests of demonstrating the efficacy of Parmenides’ Hinge in mapping various philosophical positions, it is worthwhile to consider the general form some of these default determinations take. With reference-emphatic default determinations, for instance, the primary issues at stake seem to be ‘continuity,’ ‘determinativity,’ ‘context concessions,’ and ‘transparency conditions.’

Continuity refers to the relation between transparency and performative contexts. To consider two possible default determinations: a reflexive THIS-frame, for instance, might simply be treated as an attenuated performative context, and thus in some sense continuous with other ‘nonreflective practices,’ or it might be considered to be altogether prior to performative contexts and thus discontinuous. Consider Kant. For Kant THIS-frame is transcendental, which is to say, fundamentally discontinuous. The very possibility of a ‘performative context’ is to found in the prior transparency of THIS-frame.

Determinativity refers to the way in which determination–semantic, metaphysical, and epistemological–is distributed vis a vis THIS-frame. Determination, for instance, might be entirely attributed to the world (as object), such that THIS-frame merely constitutes a transparent vantage on what is true. Semantically, the meaning of assertions is provided by truth-conditions. Metaphysically, the world is real and by and large independent of THIS-frame. Epistemologically, our perceptions are causally determined by the world. On the other hand, determination might be attributed to THIS-frame itself, such that it is understood as a ‘conceptual scheme’ or the like, something which somehow determines the objects (be they real or representational) referred to. Once again Kant provides an excellent example: the discontinuous priority (transcendence) of THIS-frame provides the conditions of possibility for any experience whatsoever. Given that determinativity is attributed to the transcendental subject (Kant’s default determination of the reflexive THIS-frame), experience never presents the world in-itself, but rather constructs representations of we know not what.

Context concessions refer to the ways in which performative context is incorporated into otherwise reference-emphatic positions. Again, consider Kant. For Kant, reflexivity is ‘explained’ by removing THIS-frame from the contingencies of the world altogether. The question which one might ask Kant at this point is why THIS-frame remains subjective. Why not construe it as, say, Spinoza, as the moment where THIS-frame undergoes the infinite, where one thinks the thought of God or Nature? And yet, in a sense all Kant is doing is making the quintessential modern concession to performative contexts: THIS-frame is my frame, is subjective. As such, it performs that which is referred to. Kant’s position, in other words, can be construed as a certain interpretation of the contemporaneity of transparency and performative context. The determinativity which belongs to a certain delimitation of performative context is attributed to discontinuous transparency itself. The question then becomes one of attaining this standpoint in our claims to knowledge.

Transparency conditions refer to those conditions which must be satisfied in order to assert the reflexivity of THIS-frame. These conditions vary depending on whether THIS-frame is continuous or discontinuous to performative contexts. Although for Kant THIS-frame is fundamentally discontinuous from and determines performative contexts, he does elucidate transparency conditions for what might count as knowledge of our representations of the ‘world,’ namely, the ‘limits of reason.’ This is how Kant can claim to be a transcendental idealist and an empirical realist, and why philosophy finds itself in the ‘precarious position’ mentioned above. Reason must be limited to experience–the theoretical attitude is not enough. Critical philosophy, in other words, is concerned with establishing the transparency conditions of Parmenides’ Hinge. A reference-emphatic naturalist, on the other hand, who would insist on the continuity of THIS-frame with performative contexts (physiologically and psychologically construed), would claim that ‘reason’ and scientific method provide the transparency conditions for THIS-frame. Although they might eschew the notion of ‘prior philosophy,’ unlike the performance-emphatic naturalist they would still assume that transparency comes first, that the stationary frame of the world revealed by (scientific) transparency precedes the mobile frame of any culture.

Note that the central question involved in each of these reference-emphatic issues involves the relation of transparency to performative contexts. Since truth follows THIS-frame reflexively construed, irreflexive performative contexts, whether physiological, linguistic, or socio-historical, become a liability. The central concern, in other words, is Parmenides’ Hinge.

Analytic philosophy can be seen as a complex renegotiation of the Kantian interpretation of Parmenides’ Hinge. Kantianism is stripped of all ontological residue, and the reflexivity of THIS-frame is understood in purely formal and/or scientific terms. Freed from the concrete, irreflexive normativity of performative contexts, the only normativity which remains is ‘rational,’ the ageless and perfectly reflexive rules of logic. For Frege, as his arguments against psychologism should suggest, THIS-frame remains discontinuous, but gone is the transcendental subjectivity and the representationalism of Kant. Semantic determinativity has been returned to the objects confronted, and the meaning of our assertions are found in their truth-conditions. The problematic performative context becomes language, becomes semantic rather than wholly epistemological. Russell’s theory of descriptions held out the revolutionary possibility that natural language could be rendered transparent through analysis.

The problem of Parmenides’ Hinge, in other words, finds its primary expression in the analysis of language. The issue becomes one of purifying the performative context of natural language. With the proper logical syntax, it is thought, philosophical confusions can be dissolved. Given the failure of logical atomism to demonstrate the terminus of analysis (the so-called ‘simples’ which compose natural languages), the attempt to specify transparency conditions becomes the attempt to adduce criteria for ‘genuinely factual statements.’ The positivist’s verification principle is exemplary in this respect. Given that meaning is construed in terms of truth-conditions, the reflexivity of THIS-frame, as determined by the criteria of factuality, becomes the very condition of meaningfulness. The positivists also eschew Kantian discontinuity, grounding analytic statements in the conventions which govern our use of language. They retain, however, Kant’s idealistic concession to performative contexts: our statements refer not to the world but to representations, now understood as ‘sense-data.’

Ordinary language philosophy, on the other hand, although it still locates the problem of performative contexts in natural language, argues that transparency is only to be had through the clarification of natural language as it is, through the attempt to specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of its concepts. There is no wholesale way to settle the question of transparency conditions. The question, rather, must be resolved one concept at a time.

Analysis is intimately connected to the problem of Parmenides’ Hinge. Analytic philosophy, in other words, is critical philosophy. The analytic philosopher is committed to the priority of the reflexive THIS-frame, but realizes, given the contemporaneity of transparency and performative contexts, that the primary question is one of determining the character of this contemporaneity. The various answers to this question represent the various default determinations attributed to the Hinge. What analytic philosophy shares, it might be suggested, is the ‘grammar’ belonging to reference-emphatic positions in general, the grammar which, although acknowledging performative contexts as a liability, maintains the priority of THIS-frame reflexively construed. Although acknowledging its elusiveness, the backward moment for analytic philosophy precedes the forward moment. After all, the analytic philosopher would insist, it is only from the standpoint of the backward moment that we are able to theorize the forward moment at all.

5. Performance-emphatic Positions: Pragmatism

As we saw with Nietzsche, the grammar of performance-emphatic positions is contrary to that of reference-emphatic positions. For performance-emphatic positions, as one might expect, performative contexts are primary. THIS-frame is irreflexive. With performance-emphatic default determinations, the primary issues at stake seem to be ‘determinativity,’ ‘transparency concessions,’ ‘context delimitation,’ and ‘context fidelity.’

Determinativity in performance-emphatic positions refers to the question of how determination is distributed vis a vis THIS-frame. Although commitment to world-as-context would seem to suggest some kind of constructivism, this question is far more amorphous for performance-emphatic positions than for reference-emphatic positions. Given relation emphasis and frame mobility there simply is no ‘stationary frame,’ nothing outside our practices, which can wholly determine our meanings or beliefs. But this does not mean that the ‘world of objects,’ albeit contextually understood, is bereft of determinativity. There is no reason why the ‘stationary frame,’ or the world of independent objects which determines the truth or falsity of our beliefs, cannot arise as an artifact of performative contexts. For the participants within such an ‘artifact,’ it would not be an artifact at all, but simply the ‘way things are.’ The world provides the truth-conditions for our statements, and our perception of objects is caused by those objects.

Transparency concessions refer to ways in which transparency, or characteristics otherwise associated with reference-emphasis, are acknowledged by performance-emphatic positions. In the same way that reference-emphatic thinkers often feel compelled to make concessions to performative context, performance-emphatic thinkers often feel compelled to make concessions to transparency. So although for Peirce our conception of an ‘object’ is exhausted by its ‘sensible effect’ upon our practices, he nevertheless maintains the privileged relation between scientific practices and the ‘real.’ Insofar as science converges with the ‘end of infinite inquiry,’ it represents a privileged set of practices which is gradually ‘becoming transparent.’ Transparency, in other words, is the telos of performative contexts. For Quine, on the other hand, logic and science are ‘transparent’ given a certain performative context (a ‘conceptual scheme’), which is characterized, primarily, by the interests of predictive power and control. Performative context comes first, but within this context, which is the only context we have, the ‘transparency’ of logic and science is pragmatically indisputable. Thus Quine’s insistence on extensionalism despite the so-called ‘inscrutability of reference,’ the fact that there is no ‘fact of the matter’ independent of our performative contexts. So although the objects of science are of a par with Homer’s gods (as ‘cultural posits’), we can still insist that the statements of science are nevertheless true. Those performance-emphatic thinkers who complain about the ‘cognitivism’ of such pragmatic thinkers, tacitly recognize transparency concessions as just that, concessions. Their worry, in other words, is that these positions are not ‘emphatic enough.’

Context delimitation refers to the question of which context if any is to be given priority. For Dewey, the social is the most significant, whereas for Nietzsche, the ‘psychological’ is predominant. For those who, like Peirce or Quine, concede transparency in some fashion, scientific practices are typically granted the greatest significance, and finds ‘pragmatic naturalism. The later Wittgenstein, on the other hand, prioritizes the linguistic. Many performance-emphatic thinkers are aware of the difficulty posed by context delimitation. Wittgenstein, for instance, has recourse to ‘forms of life’ periodically, in order to stress that there is no such thing as a ‘self-sufficient’ context. Why, for instance, adhere to a linguistic context? Why not stress the primacy of the physiological, and construe certain philosophical issues as neurological performances, as the eliminativists do? For that matter, why not assign primacy to the only self-sufficient context, the totality of contexts, as Hegel does? Wittgenstein would respond, and many would agree, that the question of the significance of contexts is itself a question of contexts. In certain circumstances, for instance, the physiological would in fact be the primary performative context to consider.

Context fidelity refers to the degree to which performance-emphatic thinkers condition their own philosophical practice according to their characterizations of performative contexts. The later Wittgenstein, for instance, is acutely aware that THIS-frame is in fact this very frame, that his considerations of language-games are themselves moves within this language-game. THIS-frame is primarily irreflexive for Wittgenstein; to construe it reflexively would be to misconstrue the primacy of ‘ordinary language.’ Thus Wittgenstein’s claim that he is not offering a ‘theory’ of language, but rather a series of ‘reminders,’ performances of the irreflexive ways in which language works. Contemporary Wittgensteinian quietists simply practice this extreme form of context fidelity, insisting (on the basis of their default determination of Parmenides Hinge, although they are unable in principle to acknowledge it as such) that all concessions to philosophical transparency must be resisted.[8] There are many ways to be ‘faithful’ to context. Somewhat less extreme are those performance-emphatic thinkers who acknowledge the ‘relativism’ which seems to follow from the socio-historical irreflexivity of performative contexts. In such cases one is trading faithfulness to the irreflexivity of THIS-frame understood super-indexically for the determinativity of context which becomes manifest when one treats this irreflexivity ‘theoretically,’ that is, as some that-frame which can be described ‘from nowhere,’ so to speak.

Pragmatism can be seen either as the attempt to reconstrue Parmenides’ Hinge, such that performative contexts are given their due, or as the attempt to extirpate the Hinge altogether, as the residue of an ‘essentialist tradition’ or the like. Consider Peirce: It is no accident that pragmatism begins with Peirce’s critique of Cartesian doubt. The methodological purpose of Descartes’ hyperbolic doubt is to secure transparency, to immunize Kant’s ‘precarious position’ against the vicissitudes of performative contexts. When Peirce argues in “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man”* that it is impossible to distinguish between ideas determined by other ideas and ideas determined by intuition, he is arguing against the possibility of establishing transparency conditions introspectively. Rather than removing cognition from the liabilities of performative context, doubt for Peirce is integral to the performative context of inquiry. Inquiry is the transformation of doubt into belief, into ‘habits of action.’ Rather than stalling the forward movement of unreflective life, doubt provides the very motive for the forward movement of ‘reflective’ inquiry. The stationary frame becomes mobile. But as we have noted, Peirce nonetheless makes several concessions to transparency, and thus remains committed, one might say, to Parmenides’ Hinge. Scientific practice itself becomes transparent in an attenuated sense, assuring that our beliefs are fixed by ‘nothing human.’ Transparency becomes the ‘fate’ of the scientific community.

When James’ transforms Peircean truth into instrumental truth, these concessions fall by the side. The performative context of the human, of ‘funded experience,’ purposes, and values, becomes the background which renders beliefs true. But if Peirce’s concessions are rejected by James, Dewey at least recognizes the problem which motivates them. For Dewey the mistake of traditional philosophy is that of identifying cognitive experience, the backward moment of our logical relation to the world, with experience itself. Here we see something of the impetus for Dewey’s encounter with Parmenides’ Hinge. On the one hand, he is concerned to establish the priority of performative contexts, particularly the social, but also the biological over transparency. Dewey argues that ‘reflection’ is the result of ‘biological adaptive behavior’ ultimately concerned with environmental control, that is, subordinated to our needs and purposes.[9] Performative contexts come first. On the other hand he is concerned to relocate experience, which, Dewey argues, is merely of nature from the standpoint of the ‘spectator,’ in nature. Given that Dewey acknowledges the importance of the reflexivity of THIS-frame (as ‘reflection’), he is concerned to give a relation emphatic account of experience wherein one does not simply ‘undergo’ nature, but reflectively responds to it as well. The priority of performative context is maintained however: ‘transparency’ is merely a relational moment of the performative whole.

Where the reference-emphatic thinker typically attempts to either provide an account the ‘stationary frame’ which provides the fixed foundation of our practices, or at the very least to establish the transparency conditions which must be met to make such an account possible, the pragmatist typically attempts to describe the ‘mobile frames’ which provide the flexible background of our practices. Those pragmatists explicitly concerned with Parmenides’ Hinge, such as Dewey, or more recently Rorty and Putnam, spend much of their time critiquing the possibility of transparency conditions (and at times, as with Putnam, offering substitutes). The pragmatic critique of the tradition, or more broadly, the contextualist critique of ‘essentialism,’ is as fixated upon ‘hinge questions’ as are those philosophies which they criticize. Even Wittgenstein, who would likely eschew the very notion of Parmenides’ Hinge, is deeply committed to its consideration. His description of the ‘traditional picture’ can be read as a description of reference-emphasis, and his ‘critique,’ as a demonstration of the problems which arise for transparency when recontextualized against a performance-emphatic background. The pragmatic or contextualist critique of reference-emphasis clearly demonstrates the positivity of their view: performative contexts come first. After all, the pragmatist insists, it is only through the forward moment that there is any backward moment at all.

Note the way in which a ‘middle ground’ seems to open between performance and reference-emphatic positions. This is nowhere more evident than in the ‘naturalisms’ which correspond to either emphasis. Quine, for instance, avails himself of many of the features of reference-emphasis: truth, ‘the logical point of view,’ extensionalism, and the like. But this does not mean that these features ‘come first.’ Far from it, in fact. The transparency of THIS-frame for Quine is underwritten by broader performative contexts. Science is a ‘conceptual scheme’ which is also a tool “for predicting future experience in the light of past experience.”[10] The question is more vexed for Davidson, who maintains both the ‘transparency of truth’ (by which he means both the accessibility and irreducibility of truth*), and the fact that the interpretation leveraged by this transparency must be ‘empirically embedded’ in contexts of language usage. It may seem to some that Davidson, particularly in lieu of his criticisms of the ‘scheme/content’ distinction, maintains a species of ‘hinge indeterminacy.’ But if Rorty is to believed,[11] Davidson is wholly given over to performance-emphasis (albeit in a way which somehow still allows for transcendental arguments). Like the later Wittgenstein, but for far different reasons, Davidson simply does not think that questions of transparency and performative context can be raised. As close as the two parties may come, however, the fundamental issue of the Hinge remains, and when the further commitments of either position are explored, the differences become quite drastic.

Also note that the question of Parmenides’ Hinge seems to suggest that the terrain of metaphysics be rewritten, insofar as ‘metaphysics,’ traditionally construed, maintains strong affiliations with reference-emphasis. Performance-emphatic philosophers, for instance, would like nothing better than to conceive of themselves as patently ‘anti-metaphysical,’ despite the fact that the default determinations which underwrite their general outlook are no less positive that those of the reference-emphatic philosopher. By this self-conception, I would hazard, they simply mean that they are stridently anti reference-emphatic. Of course, certain performance-emphatic thinkers would want to argue that their ‘default-determinations’ are not metaphysical because they are not positive, but rather negative–there is no such thing as Parmenides’ Hinge. So, for instance, when Bernard Williams points out that the theoretical attitude and practical attitude are ‘obviously different,’[12] someone like Rorty will reply (with Dewey) that the distinction is not obvious at all.[13] Granted that what this distinction is unclear (something Williams would acknowledge), isn’t it in fact clear that there is a distinction? Performance-emphatic philosophers in fact have a vested interest in answering this question negatively, if only because it transforms a series of positive, and as we shall see ultimately indefensible, claims about the relation of performative contexts to transparency into non-claims. In other words, the very issue over which reference-emphatic thinkers want to take performance-emphatic thinkers to task does not exist for performance-emphatic philosophers, or if it does ‘exist,’ it only does so as an artifact of a dysfunctional performative-context called the ‘philosophical tradition,’ or in more virulent performance-emphatic positions (such as quietism) ‘philosophy in general.’ In other words, it exists only as an artifact its prior non-existence. When it is impossible to even agree upon our disagreements, the ‘balkanization’ of philosophy is no surprise.

I will return to this problem later. For now we need only note how suspicious this particular manifestation of performance-emphasis must look from a historical standpoint. Performance-emphasis in general can no longer be a position with ‘presuppositions’ simply because it is not a ‘position’ at all. Why? Because there is literally nothing to contrast performance-emphasis with–‘emphasis’ requires alternatives. Mouthing the possibility of alternatives is empty if we act as though there is only one way. This differs from Hegel’s ‘non-positionality’ only in that Hegel was honest enough to declare this to be the case.[14] When one asks a performance-emphatic thinker what they mean by ‘use,’ for instance, the reply will too often be, “Well, let’s see how it is used.” Insofar as contexts are the stock and trade of performance-emphatic philosophers, one might think the claim that ‘pragmatism is first philosophy’ is absurd. Is not pragmatism premised on the impossibility of first philosophy? In fact, this is part of the problem. The central question should be: What does it mean for a ‘way of philosophizing’ to include its irremedial contingency? Once a position includes its contingency then any ‘demonstration’ of that contingency becomes a demonstration, not of the spuriousness of that position, but of the position itself. Thus the structure: ‘What does ‘use’ presuppose?–well let’s see how it is used.’ Although the position is committed to the ‘necessity’ of its contingency, the question of its contingency can never arise for it, not even as a possibility, simply because it provides the very performative forum wherein all such questions must be traded. What this means is that pragmatically, pragmatism is presuppositionless. It becomes performative first philosophy. What the pragmatist refuses to countenance is that the question, ‘What does use presuppose?’ is aimed at this very way of ‘philosophizing.’ Despite the fallibilism implied by their ‘experimentalism,’ performance-emphatic thinkers of this stripe cannot even acknowledge the mere possibility that they have misconstrued Parmenides’ Hinge, the possibility that ‘pragmatism’ itself might be the spurious artifact, an expedient way to read which gets things ‘wrong.’ Rather than declare their lack of presuppositions in a Cartesian fashion they merely perform it. One must not always declare their belief in absolutes to kneel at mass.

Note that here we see the importance of the temporal self-referential sentence above. Whatever the dubious significance of that sentence might be, it at the very least establishes that there is a distinction. Once one acknowledges the distinction, the question of its ‘proper’ determination becomes difficult to evade, and the positivity of its pragmatic determination becomes undeniable.

6. Paradox-emphatic Positions: Continental Philosophy

The question of paradox-emphasis has been deferred simply because many of this position’s more esoteric commitments can only be made clear through an antecedent understanding of certain stakes involved in reference-emphasis and performance-emphasis. Note, for instance, the difficulty of their interrelationship: for a performance-emphatic philosopher the backward moment is only an inflection of the forward moment, whereas for a reference-emphatic philosopher it is only through the backward moment that one can postulate the ‘forward moment’ at all. Here we see the strange shape of the dilemma. The performance-emphatic philosopher says, ‘Practices come first!’ and the reference-emphatic philosopher replies, ‘Nice theory!’ to which the performance-emphatic philosopher replies, ‘But a ‘theory’ which only makes sense within a certain practice!’ to which the reference-emphatic philosopher replies, ‘More theory!’–and so on.

This is too schematic, but it allows us to clarify the typical paradox-emphatic understanding of Parmenides’ Hinge. This problem, the paradox-emphatic philosopher would insist, expresses something central to the Hinge itself: the impossibility of assigning priority to either the performative or the referential emphases. Thus the problem which expresses itself at the limits of performance-emphatic and reference-emphatic positions might be seen as the departure point for paradox-emphatic positions. This might be diagrammatically represented as follows:


In paradox-emphatic positions we are pinioned, as it were, between the performative and referential emphases. Both performative context and transparency ‘come first.’ When the performance-emphatic philosopher insists that ‘practices come first,’ the paradox-emphatic philosopher agrees, and when the reference-emphatic philosopher counters that ‘theory comes first’ the paradox-emphatic philosopher again agrees. But surely this is nonsense!

Far from it in fact–and for reasons similar to those which prevent us from dismissing the liar’s paradox as ‘simple nonsense.’ In a sense, the violation of performance-reference asymmetry one finds in the Liar’s Paradox is a central feature of philosophical discourse in general for paradox-emphatic thinkers. We cannot help but be ‘displaced’ by performative contexts, they would insist; but likewise we cannot help but be logically related to those contexts. In other words, we cannot help but express the primacy of ‘practice’ except by antecedently acknowledging the priority of ‘theory.’ The priority of transparency is an unavoidable feature of philosophical discourse, even if that discourse denounces the priority of transparency. Although the paradox-emphatic philosopher would agree with the reference-emphatic charge that performance-emphatic positions ‘performatively contradict’ themselves by offering theories of the primacy of practice, for them the problem would not be the performative contradiction itself–this is merely the ‘original sin’ of philosophical discourse–but rather their refusal to acknowledge its necessity.

This is roughly what paradox-emphatic writers mean when they declare that there is no escaping the ‘metaphysics of presence.’ This might be provisionally expressed in terms of the contrast between the forward and backward moments. For the paradox-emphatic thinker the fact that we ‘live forward’ is only accessible to us ‘backward.’ The forward moment, in other words, is only accessible to ‘reflection,’ that is, insofar as it is represented as something present. Recall the manner in which retrospective ascent allowed the comprehension of our temporal self-referential sentence by providing a stationary frame against which the relation between ‘nows’ could be understood. The backwards moment, in other words, allowed us to consider the forward moment of reading the sentence as something present to us. This ‘presence,’ it was suggested, was a product of the reflexive transparency of THIS-frame. If we wished to represent or ‘disclose’ THIS-frame, to reveal it, say, as the product of a performative context, it could only be through a further ‘retrospective ascent,’ through a further transparent THIS-frame. In other words, there is no way to represent the prior irreflexivity of THIS-frame without presupposing the transparency of THIS-frame. To say that there is no escaping the metaphysics of presence in philosophical discourse, is simply to say that some commitment to transparency is inevitable.[15]

A consideration of Nietzsche, who is in a manner ‘proto’ paradox-emphatic, might be helpful to illustrate this. In §17 of Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche offers his celebrated ‘anti-cogito,’ and once again explicitly takes issue with Parmenides’ Hinge. The passage is worth quoting at length:

As for the superstitions of the logicians, I shall never tire of underlining a concise little fact which these superstitious people are loathe to admit–namely, that a thought comes when ‘it’ wants, not when ‘I’ want; so that it is a falsification of the facts to say: the subject ‘I’ is the condition of the predicate ‘think.’ It thinks: but that this ‘it’ is precisely that famous old ‘I’ is, to put it mildly, only an assumption, an assertion, above all not an ‘immediate certainty.’ For even with this ‘it thinks’ one has already gone too far: this ‘it’ already contains an interpretation of the event and does not belong to the event itself.[16]

And Nietzsche continues to suggest that “perhaps we and the logicians as well will one day accustom ourselves to getting along without that little ‘it.’”[17] The ‘no escape’ structure suggested above is quite clear, although Nietzsche expresses it in terms of the inevitability of ‘interpretation’ rather than of ‘representation,’ ‘presence,’ or transparency. The fact that the ‘I’ has ‘evaporated’ into the ‘it,’ he argues, in no way exempts us from the dilemma. We have simply substituted one interpretation for another. So although we have, in good performance-emphatic fashion, eschewed the Cartesian transparency of THIS-frame and toppled Kant’s ‘precarious position,’ we are still left with this backward moment of transparency, the interpretative moment of ‘it.’

Nietzsche stands at the cusp of extreme performance-emphasis and paradox-emphasis here. The quietist, for instance, would say that we must do without ‘it’ altogether, be faithful, in other words, to the irreflexivity of performative contexts. The post-structuralist, on the other hand, would say that we cannot do without ‘it,’ even though we must do without. The paradox-emphatic tack, in other words, would be to treat ‘it’ as a concept ‘under erasure’ (to use the idiom of deconstruction). Although there is no escape from the reflexivity of some species of reference-emphasis (presence), likewise there is no escape from the irreflexivity of performative contexts. The problem is that ‘performative contexts’ designate something that cannot be designated without simultaneously denying performative contexts. What this means for many paradox-emphatic thinkers is that the most we can do is textually enact the constitutive inability of reference-emphasis to immunize itself from performative contexts. Even though ‘it’ can never by named, it can be exemplified in those texts that attempt to deny or otherwise ‘fix’ it.

Paradox-emphatic positions, then, simultaneously assert the priority of the performative and the referential, and thus take the ‘aporetic’ character of Parmenides’ Hinge as their point of departure, although, as we shall see, embracing paradox-emphasis makes the notion of ‘points of departure’ problematic. With paradox-emphatic default determinations of Parmenides’ Hinge, the central issues at stake seem to be ‘performance-reference relationality,’ ‘register specification,’ ‘ontological commitment,’ and ‘aporetic fidelity.’

Performance-reference relationality refers to way in which transparency and performative contexts interrelate in a given paradox-emphatic position. This is an neglected and yet exceedingly important issue in paradox-emphatic philosophy. If this relation is conceived of hermeneutically, as it is in Heidegger, then the aporetic relation between performative context and transparency is construed ‘virtuously.’ The conditioning of reference by performative contexts does not necessarily prevent the possibility of a logical relation to the world. Transparency, in other words, is always a matter of ‘hermeneutic discipline.’ If this relation is conceived dispersively on the other hand, as it is in Derrida, then the conditioning of reference by performative contexts renders the possibility of a truly logical relation to the world impossible. The relation, in a sense, is construed ‘viciously.’ Transparency remains inescapable, but is irremedially problematized by inaccessible performative contexts (‘differance’). It becomes an instance of what Derrida calls ‘originary repetition.’ Transparency both ‘comes first’ (and is thus ‘originary’) and is displaced by the priority of performative contexts (and is thus a ‘repetition’).

Register specification refers to the theoretical locus through which a given thinker expresses paradox-emphatic default determinations of Parmenides’ Hinge. Thus, where the later Heidegger specifies the ‘question of Being’ as the preeminent locus, Levinas insists that ethics and the ‘other’ provide the proper register. Where Foucault focuses on the socio-historical and the aporetic relation of knowledge and power, Derrida emphasizes the linguistic and the textual. In each case, one finds similar default determinations at work, although the ways in which they work will in some cases be heavily attenuated by the register specified. Many of the criticism traded between paradox-emphatic positions deal with issues of register. Because of their emphasis on language, Derrida and de Man, for instance, are accused of being too formal, whereas Heidegger is often accused (primarily by the Levinasians) of ignoring the ethical.

Ontological commitment refers to the degree to which any given paradox-emphatic position might be characterized as ontological. Thus the early Heidegger, Sartre, and the early Levinas are heavily invested in providing ‘ontological accounts’ of the grammar of paradox-emphasis within a given register. The issue of ontological commitment resembles the issue of transparency concessions considered above with respect to performance-emphatic positions insofar as certain ontological features are implicitly held to be ‘exempt’ from the consequences of paradox-emphasis. Thus Levinas will maintain the ethical inviolability of ‘subjectivity’ (‘separation’) in Totality and Infinity against Heidegger’s attempt to undo the subject-object dichotomy. And Heidegger himself will still speak of ‘conditions of possibility’ in Being and Time. As we shall see, the trajectory of Continental philosophy in the 20th century is characterized by the gradual repudiation of ontological commitment.

Aporetic fidelity refers to degree to which the difficulties of paradox-emphasis are ‘brought home,’ so to speak, to a thinker’s own philosophical practice. The later Heidegger, for instance, can be seen as progressively attenuating his own philosophical practice with a greater recognition of the difficulties incumbent upon paradox-emphatic ‘thinking.’ But it is perhaps in deconstruction that one finds the greatest degree of aporetic fidelity. The very notion of ‘deconstruction’ is itself held to the consequences of Derrida’s default determinations of Parmenides’ Hinge, such that Derrida will argue that there is no such thing as ‘deconstruction,’ but rather, merely ‘deconstructions,’ instances of enacting the irreflexivity of occluded performative contexts.

Like analytic philosophy, continental philosophy can be understood as an attempt to renegotiate the relation between performative contexts and transparency. Unlike reference-emphatic positions, however, it is rarely interested in specifying transparency conditions, and unlike performance-emphatic positions it refuses to prioritize performative contexts unconditionally. In Being and Time, for instance, Heidegger takes up the problem of Parmenides’ Hinge in terms of the ‘question of the meaning of Being.’ A central problem with the tradition, Heidegger argues, is that it construes Being in terms of beings. This ‘problem’ is commensurate to what we earlier termed ‘object emphasis,’ the fact that reference-emphatic positions tend to construe objects as externally related both to one another and to us. Naively assuming the priority of transparency, for Heidegger, commits us to what he calls the ‘metaphysics of presence.’ Like Dewey, the early Heidegger argues that such transparency (presence) is derivative, that our primary everyday relation to the world is mediated by performative contexts. No philosophical epoche can guarantee ‘phenomenological’ transparency. Unlike Dewey, however, he refuses to understand truth instrumentally. Truth, rather, is al theia, ‘unconcealment.’ Heidegger, not surprisingly, would want to distinguish between mere ‘ontic’ transparency, which forgets the relation between Being and beings, and properly ‘ontological’ transparency, the comportment towards beings which lets beings be. Since performance-reference relationality for Heidegger is hermeneutic, our ‘entanglement’ in performative contexts does not preclude transparency in principle, but rather marks the difficult interpretative task of philosophy: to allow us to be ‘in the truth.’[18]

With Heidegger’s condemnation of object emphasis, the world as object becomes a derivative phenomenon. Once the ‘stationary frame’ of reference-emphasis is abandoned, the operative performative context is conceived by French existentialism as the ‘human condition.’ Without the prior ontology of a world of objects, choice becomes a central ontological category, and with it, the absurdity of existence comes to the fore. When one chooses, one alters one’s possibilities of existence, which is to say, choice is ontological. One ‘is’ nothing at all aside from this movement of ‘negation.’ The Sartrean reformulation of the Cartesian cogito, ‘I think; therefore I was,’ is as revealing in a sense as Nietzsche’s.[19] We are ‘for ourselves’ only as we were and never as we are. THIS-frame, given its temporal irreflexivity, always escapes us. The performative context which precedes us becomes inaccessible, becomes a past which, in a sense, has never happened. For Sartre, the ontological character of the pour-soi is defined according to a dispersive (or as Sartre would put it, ‘diasporatic’) rather than a hermeneutic default determination of Parmenides’ Hinge.

The movement in continental philosophy from existentialism to post-structuralism can be characterized in terms of a shift in performance-reference relationality, a shedding of ontological commitment, a growing concern with the register of language, and a deepening aporetic fidelity. These are intimately interrelated. Ontological considerations of the paradoxical or aporetic character of Parmenides’ Hinge tend to be replaced either by formal, performative expressions of that character, or by structural, genealogical accounts of the transparency of social institutions. In the former, Parmenides’ Hinge is stripped of its ontological clothing, and becomes the basis of a way to read the philosophical tradition. Derrida’s deconstructions, for instance, demonstrate both the way in which reference-emphatic attempts to secure transparency conditions, to name the ‘transcendental signified,’ are inevitably compromised by the very performative contexts they attempt to exclude, and the ways in which performance-emphatic attempts to supercede transparency are ultimately ‘reinscribed’ within the ‘metaphysics of presence’ they hope to eschew. In the latter, Parmenides’ Hinge is both stripped of its ontological character and of its ‘humanist’ register. Foucault’s genealogies, for instance, demonstrate the ways in which the ‘institutional transparencies’ of the sciences are merely subreptive expressions of ‘unconscious’ performative contexts, contexts which thoroughly determine the ‘human condition.’ The paradox of Parmenides’ Hinge, for Foucault, is the nothing less than the structural expression of ‘man’ after Kant. Transparency becomes the condition of the very performative contexts which are the condition of transparency. THIS-frame both determines performative contexts and is determined by them.

7. Conclusion

Despite the length of this study, the accounts given of each of the three solitudes must remain far too schematic. This is unavoidable. My hope, rather, was to simply illustrate both the importance of Parmenides’ Hinge and its ability to limn the shape of contemporary philosophy. The point was to show that the three solitudes seem to share a common problematic. The suggestion is that once this common problematic is acknowledged efforts might be made to surpass the three solitudes.

Imagine that philosophy is an extraordinary piece of ‘laser art.’ Superficially, it is all visual noise, but if one is able to focus properly, depths suddenly open within and coherent figures emerge from the confusion. The problem is that there are any number of ways to ‘focus properly,’ and different depths and different figures resolve themselves accordingly. As a result, we mill around gazing into the same portrait, exclaiming to one another ‘But can’t you see?!’ Each of the solitudes, the argument is, represent a general family of figures. These families can be distinguished by the grammar common to their default determinations of Parmenides’ Hinge.

The fundamental problem, what renders these solitudes ‘solitary,’ is that these determinations of Parmenides’ Hinge remain default determinations. Whatever the issue, the suggestion is, each solitude implicitly appropriates it in terms legislated by these determinations. Without rendering these determinations explicit, debate inevitably centers around the symptoms. Debate collapses because one merely substitutes grammar for grammar without engaging the question of the Hinge, even when one realizes that the preemption characteristic of the solitudes is a problem. The grammar, which is not clearly understood, is simply reasserted at a higher level. Thus when Nagel, in his critique of contextualism in The Last Word, at last acknowledges that preemption is a problem, he writes:

Each party to the dispute is using precisely the methods that are being challenged by the other to refute the other’s challenge, so it looks as though no one can possibly win. But that does not follow. Faced with such an apparent standoff, we just have to go on thinking about it and to decide which of the lines of reasoning is superior.[20]

But surely it is this last claim which does not follow. If we continue to apply the very standards being challenged in the debate then the standoff is more than ‘apparent.’ How does one establish the ‘superiority’ of a given grammar over another from within a given grammar? For Nagel the ‘last word’ simply marks the point where we are constrained by the necessity of transparency; but this ‘necessity’ only arises as the result of a prior grammar. The first word in the debate is literally the ‘last word.’ Without a clear understanding of one’s default determination of Parmenides’ Hinge, one can only ply their grammar as though it were the only one, in the same way so many monolingual people are convinced that English must be the best language.

The source of this difficulty might be attributed to the enigmatic contemporaneity of performative context and transparency, of contingency and truth. Without any explicit acknowledgment of default determinations, it simply is the case that the Hinge is ‘open,’ such that we are obviously logically related to the world, or ‘closed’ such that we are contingently swept along by our performative context, or both ‘open’ and ‘closed,’ such that we must continually ‘critique’ those who assume that it is one or the other. Each of these ‘hinge grammars’ seem so blatantly obvious to us (so much so that we are often stupefied by the arguments of other grammars) simply because the enigma of the Hinge offers no ‘resistance.’ What we share is a relation to a Gordian knot, but a knot so difficult that it does not even seem to be a knot at all–a ‘superknot,’ one might say.

There are, however, certain questions which tend to foreground something of this superknot. For instance, the question for the performance-emphatic philosopher would be: If performance comes first how is it that reference is possible, and how is it that it is so powerful? It seems obvious that science is not simply ‘one practice among many,’ or that logic is not merely ‘conventional.’ If the theoretical attitude does not grant us access to the Truth, then precisely what distinguishes it? The question for the reference-emphatic philosopher would be: if reference comes first how is it that it remains immune to the determinations of its performative contexts? It seems obvious that our descendants will look as squint-eyed at our declarations of Truth as we look at the declarations of our ancestors. If we are in fact performatively contextualized all the time, then how do we ‘transcend’ these contexts while not transcending them? The question for the paradox-emphatic philosopher would be: If ‘aporia’ is the ‘original sin of language,’ then why is it that it so rarely troubles us? If seems obvious it that ‘short-circuits’ of performance-reference asymmetry are the exception rather than the rule of everyday life. Why is it that this aporetic character is restricted to a handful of puzzles, and that it ‘arises’ elsewhere only at the terminus of some esoteric textual labour?

I am sure that answers to these questions can be proffered, but I am not so sure that they can be done so in a way which does not ultimately beg the question. The problem, I think, is this: In order to argue for a certain determination of Parmenides’ Hinge, there must be a sense in which THIS-frame is ‘free’ of any antecedent default determinations. It is not clear that this can be done. What this means is that there is a sense in which the grammar of Parmenides’ Hinge must be determined before we can determine this grammar. Thus the enigma of Parmenides’ Hinge. This study itself begs the enigma. Does it succeed in kicking itself free of the performative context of the philosophical tradition, such that it is able to transparently offer a synoptic diagnosis? Depending on one’s default determinations, perhaps, or perhaps not. But this is not necessarily a problem. The goal is to move on, not stop the show.

The primary temptation, I am sure, will be to problematize these questions. Certainly this is possible, but such an exercise would itself be problematic in at least two ways. First, from the standpoint of these questions, such a preemptive response must be question begging, given that such preemptions, which have the satisfying tendency of confirming one’s solitude, are the very things at stake in these questions. These questions demand that one defend their parochialism without presupposing their parochialism. Second, these questions arise on the basis of a certain, admittedly imperfect, synoptic account of contemporary philosophy. Given the vulnerability of all philosophical accounts to ‘death by a thousand qualifications,’ the challenge would seem not to be one of adducing ‘counter-examples,’ nor one of troubling specific interpretations, but rather one of providing either an argument for the impossibility of such an account which does not beg the question, or a better such account. Mincing simply demonstrates a formal characteristic of all philosophical positions–which is to say, demonstrates nothing at all. That transitions between claims in philosophy are dubious is what makes such transitions ‘philosophical.’ The remarkable thing is that there are transitions nonetheless, that these things somehow ‘make sense,’ somehow offer an ‘understanding’ of their subject matter. The challenge, in other words, is to explain the ‘synoptic force’ of this account, to somehow supercede the consistency, parsimony, and comprehensiveness of this reading of contemporary philosophy. Personally, I hope that this can be done: it would better enable us to get on with the philosophy of the 21st century.

A further point: Those tempted to ‘performatively evade’ these questions, by insisting, for example, that they do not have a ‘philosophical position’ (as though one could at last make presuppositionless philosophy palatable by eschewing ‘theory’), are exposed to a peculiar dilemma. The problem is not merely that they might be interpreted as merely exemplifying the problems discussed here, but that their so-called non-positions might in fact be duplicated. What would it mean, for instance, if using these ‘tendencies’ one could repeat all the ‘standard moves’ of a Wittgensteinian quietist, or of a Derridean deconstruction? I am not sure, but I would suspect nothing good for these ‘non-positions.’ At the very least, it seems to me, it would demonstrate their parochialism–the obvious fact that they are doing something very specific, and very philosophical.

On this account, the major challenge of 20th century philosophy has been the negotiation of Parmenides’ Hinge. Over the past one hundred years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of context, and a growing repudiation of truth traditionally conceived. And yet without any clear way to frame the relation of truth and context the tendency has been to make a no man’s land of their conjunction, to fortify truth, to fortify context, or to wage a guerrilla war from no man’s land itself. It is an old and fruitless war. A war of sappers, where engagements are only won in the newspapers of a single nation. Perhaps the time has come to enter into new negotiations.

We have three rather daunting questions to guide us: 1) What is THIS-frame?; 2) How can it be both reflexive and irreflexive?; and 3) What is its proper grammar?


[1] “On Denoting.”

[2] Pragmatism, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981), p. 100.

[3] It certainly seems the case that in everyday conversation that when people express propositional attitudes it is not the attitudes themselves which are scrutinized with reference to the truth. Rather, the truth of their beliefs are assessed. This shows that assertions of belief are not assertions that one believes, but rather assertions that what one believes is true. The difference between the first-person and the third-person in this case is that in the first-person this shift is much more readily made.

[4] See Tarán, Parmenides, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), pp. 73-81.

[5] Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, p. 42.

[6] The Gay Science, trans., Walter Kaufmann, (New York: Vintage, 1974), p. 265.

[7] Critique of Pure Reason, trans., Norman Kemp Smith, (London: MacMillan, 1929), p. A33/B50.

[8] Note the way in which Parmenides’ Hinge problematizes Wittgenstein’s distinction between philosophical and ordinary discourse. If the importance of Parmenides’ Hinge is granted, it would seem that Wittgenstein confused the issues of performative context and transparency with different ‘types’ of language use. It could be convincingly argued, I would suggest, that Wittgenstein in fact conflates ‘ordinary language’ with performance-emphasis, and ‘philosophical language’ with reference-emphasis. To say that ordinary language is the ‘original home’ is simply to assert that performative contexts come first. The problem is that since ‘ordinary language’ is nothing in particular, it can seem as though Wittgenstein does not have an emphasis at all. THIS-frame, in other words, simply becomes the irreflexive voice of the ordinary, bereft of default determinations. The fact that so many insist that Wittgenstein does not have a positive view, even though Wittgenstein obviously offers a very distinctive way to read philosophical problems, demonstrates the uncanny ability of THIS-frame to elude otherwise savvy philosophical thinkers. And this despite the fact that the history of philosophy is the story of hidden assumptions coming to light. Do they think that Wittgenstein is exempt from this history?

[9] The Philosophy of John Dewey, p. 59.

[10] “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” From a Logical Point of View, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 44.

[11] “Pragmatism, Davidson, and Truth,” Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson, ed., Ernest LePore, (New York: Blackwell, 1986). What Rorty fails to realize is that one can be anti-representationalist and still be reference-emphatic (or as in Davison’s case, perhaps both). Although certain issues seem to be ‘hinge-like,’ they are actually not the most adequate/expedient way to understand the ‘lay of the land.’

[12] Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985) p. 135.

[13] See Rorty’s “Pragmatism as Anti-Representationalism,” the introduction to John P. Murphy’s Pragmatism: from Peirce to Davidson, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990).

[14] Lectures on the History of Philosophy II: Plato and the Platonists, trans., E. S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995) pp. 328-372.

[15] Note that this commitment need not be ‘essentialist’ in the traditional sense to remain a commitment nonetheless.

[16] Beyond Good and Evil, trans., R. J. Hollingdale, (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 47.

[17] Ibid., p. 47.

[18] In “On the Essence of Truth,” for instance, Heidegger actually gives what might be considered an ontological account of reflexive transparency. The commitment to reflexivity is clearly expressed in his claim that ‘freedom is the essence of truth,’ where freedom is understood as the freedom to let beings be in their self-sameness (as opposed to subordinating them to instrumental contexts). He actually concludes by citing Kant’s ‘precarious position,’ and concurring that philosophy must free itself of performative contexts. See Basic Writings, ed., David Farrell Krell, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), pp. 111-138.

[19] Being and Nothingness, trans., Hazel E. Barnes, (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956) p. 173.

[20] The Last Word, p. 98.