Derrida in Signature Event Context" (1972) asks:

"Are there signatures?", responds, "Yes, of course, every day. Effects of signature are the most common thing in the world" (SEC 20). And he ends his essay with the "counterfeit" signature "J. Derrida" (SEC 21). The implication is that, however conscious we must be of the basic instability of a given signature, in practice, we do take signatures seriously as markers of a particular individual

I'm not sure that's the implication.

Has anyone written on other possible implications: such as a signature (suggested in the linked to article as a better alternative to poetic voice or style) marking only the need for one?

Supposing that yes all self referential naming ultimately suspicious, does this undermine philosophical theory, in any way?


There is nothing special about self-reference in this sense, just about references of any kind. Nor do I agree with Derrida that this is necessarily about 'seriousness', given that the authenticity of documents as proven by signing can be a powerful force taken in dreadful earnest.

Lacan's notion of the master signifier as an empty object is another way of looking at this. No mark has meaning except within a "living symbolic realm" -- a context of overlapping compromises which is socially determined and shifts. I cannot put it better than I did in this (unpopular) answer https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/23974/9166

Signatures are meaningful because they are accepted, not because they contain meaningful proof. There is a feedback loop that continually changes what range of images will appear to be a given individual's signature and will be acceptable at a given time. As a person ages, for instance, and their hand may shake. At the other end of life, as their personality evolves, their style will affect all of their writing. Or they may simply decide to change their signature on a whim, but then give the signature in the presence of witnesses, or on something no one else would bother to sign, or, as in Derrida's case in a context where there is no ambiguity about the source of the mark because the signed work is so characteristic of the individual. It is not the form of the signature that ever actually matters, only the context and the range of other contexts in which that signature has occurred.

This is just a very concrete example of how concepts are maintained in general. No concept has content except as a stable point in a feedback loop that maintains the homeostasis of the concept itself. The actual content of any reference, or indeed any idea, stripped of all its embedding information is empty. We make shared ideas by shaping our ideas according to other ideas we got elsewhere...

This notion undercuts the idea that philosophies, especially those including ontologies cannot really ever be well-founded on a strictly logical base and derived hierarchically. There is no up or down at some level of detail.

  • i was scribbling some ideas on this, and decided that all i meant was that intertextuality is composed of differences. would you agree with this claim? would that claim applied to a signature as "identifying mark" spell out different ways of naming, as an alternative to style or voice ? – user6917 Feb 1 '16 at 18:41
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    It is true-ish. You need some way of saying that involving something more dynamic. As a fixed reference, after all, differences are differences between examples. Right? So then you can just do the math and compute the examples from the differences, and get back to the idea that translation is just a static mapping between examples. (The failure of which concept is the reason we invented the annoying word 'intertextuality'.) So without all the temporal content, you have not succeeded at saying anything. – user9166 Feb 1 '16 at 21:30

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