Suppose again that I'm the feral child mango monopolist. I don't have language, but I have non-linguistic thought. In this sign system, I can form all sorts of concepts, like 'mango', 'flavor-X', even, maybe, 'truth', all by my self! What does this do to the thesis that truth has to be a matter of convention or agreement, when it can be signified in a sign system that can develop completely without convention or agreement?First of all, I'm going to have to object to Seb's first distinction: language vs. non-linguistic thought. This is the arbitrary (though historically priviledged!) distinction that Derrida's "language in general" and "writing in general" terms try to overcome. Aristotle got us into this mess by asserting that language is the signifier of thought, and writing is the signifier of language. this means that thought precedes language, and writing and language are external and secondary to thought. These ideas are held self-evident by thousands of years of western philosophy, and it is precisely these presupposed boundaries that post-structuralists argue we should question.
It's a complicated knot to untangle, as jacques himself illustrates: "The system of writing in general is not exterior to the system of language in general, unless it is granted that the division between exterior and interior passes through the interior of the interior or the exterior of the exterior, to the point where the immanence of language is essentially exposed to the intervention of forces that are apparently alien to its system." I don't understand this at all, and i maintain hope that that's the point.
Continuing with our close reading:
I [feral child] can form all sorts of concepts, like 'mango', 'flavor-X', even, maybe, 'truth', all by my self! What does this do to the thesis that truth has to be a matter of convention or agreement...?I'll tell you what this does. It answers the question before it even asks it! This statement says: 'presuppose someone who has no communication with others, but has a concept of truth... does this person have a concept of truth, even without communication with others?' This feral child really has us tied up in logical knots! And, to make the example even more ridiculous, keep in mind that the feral child can't tell us whether she has these concepts! Throughout this entire debate, we've been putting OUR words and concepts into her mouth. Who are we to presume to speak for our necessarily voiceless example?
(additionally -- though i'm beating a dead feral child here -- in order to have any expectations, the child must have pattern-based concepts. These concepts (not necessarily words, mind you) would group together many sensory experiences and enable them to be linked to others. this is how language in general, spoken language, and written language all operate.)
another tenet of deconstruction is this: in any binary (true/false, inside/outside, good/evil, civilized/uncivilized), the existence of one term necessitates and relies on the existence of the other. there could be no concept of civilization without the negative example of the uncivilized. there is no idea of truth unless there is the potential for falsehood. and this, i believe, is what bugs the crap out of analytic philosophers.
The system of language associated with phonetic-alphabetic writing is that within which logocentric [read: truth-based!] metaphysics, determining the sense of being as presence, has been produced. This logocentrism, this epoch of the full speech, has always placed in parenthesis, suspended, and suppressed for essential reasons, all free reflection on the origin and status of writing.western thought (oh, aristotle!) loves to imagine a perfect world with truth but no falsehood, with experience uninterupted and unmediate by language, with rugged individuals who have access to truth without the need for communication with others. but it is this communcation that allows us to know anything outside of our own personal experience - and we never experience truth in the physical world. as scott said: "What's beyond the physical reality of the tree that does not require communication with others?"
Here's an exercise we tried: try to lie without using language. try to lie without saying anything. try to make someone's experience of the world untrue. even imagine an entire 'fake' world (or a Truman Show, if you like), that is the only thing that person has experienced. without an assertion that it is 'real', nothing about it would be untrue. and if a falsehood can't be achieved without language, then neither can a truth.