Derrida, Freud's Grandson, and My Dog

Sometimes my dog plays a game. It’s the first game he taught himself, and he plays it with all his toys. He’ll hold a toy in his mouth and run in frantic circles, and then toss the toy over his head. It’ll take him a long time to stop running and calm down. When he does he’ll begin sniffing for the toy, sniffing and not looking, for he won’t see the thing even if it’s right in front of him. He’ll sniff worriedly. But when he spots the toy, he’ll grab it up in his teeth and prance off happily, perhaps start again. What if I were to tell you that this clearly proves that my dog misses his mother?

Why doesn’t Derrida dismiss Freud’s treatment of his grandson’s spool game as patent nonsense, and leave it at that? Why does Derrida work through Freud so carefully, as he works through Husserl or Heidegger or whomever he’s working on? One answer is that he’s not rejecting wholesale. After all, it is with Freud that Derrida questions Freud. But he IS rejecting. Is detail required to convince? Is comic relief needed along the way? That’s getting close. Derrida is enjoying himself, he’s reveling in the lunacy, he’s a satirist. And yet . . .

At the same time Derrida finds his material interesting. Or perhaps ‘entertaining’ is a better word, though not right. Rorty says one has to find Plato interesting in order to study philosophy. Rorty himself seems to have at one time taken things seriously which he later performed an outstanding job of debunking because why waste that knowledge and what else was he good at, and didn’t people need it done? The same might be said of Wittgenstein. But what about Derrida? Did he ever take Plato seriously? He may have. It may be well documented. I don’t know. The point I want to make is that, had he not, he would have studied Plato and all his children anyway, because he finds the stuff fascinating. And it’s not the fascination of the repulsive, nor of the inferior. It’s a fascination with the difficulties that lead people to create.

One could also speak of fascination with the comical, but that’s not all there is to it. Or rather, it is, but the fascination is not scornful; it’s (can I say this?) loving. Derrida’s Freud is a kindly old grandfather, not pathetic, sympathetic, straight out of Joyce.

In response to a question, let me note that I’m not of the opinion that “dogs don’t have psyches.” I’m only of the opinion that people may be less likely to fantasize about mother-longings when the analysand has four legs.