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Sunday, 3 June 2018

The supplement

The idea of a supplement in the Grammatology can be traced back to Levinas in T&I and can be found resonating in the notions of recurrence and substitution in Autrement qu'être. I can be substituted because my subjectivity can be supplemented, something can take my place not because I am incomplete, but because the other can supply a subjectivity to me, the other can be a surrogate which is not someone who takes an established role - not a complement - but an uncontrollable (an-archic) other that replaces, substitutes me. Therefore, my decisions can be taken for the others, I can be substituted and it is only as a recurrent me that I am me - I'm not me all the time, but I come back to myself, I come back to my burden as an existent.

Derrida understands the supplement as the exterior that replaces an element in something that is neither complete not faulty - such is Nature for Rousseau: something that can be supplemented, something that can have a replacement that adds a different element but not because it is faulty of incomplete. Rousseau would arguably prefer to clearly distance himself from the idea that Nature requires any prothesis. But it admits of protheses. Rousseau's Nature is neither complete nor incomplete, it is not missing something and it is not self-sufficient - it is not a totality and it is not something that can become a totality if the missing piece in the jigsaw were found. The supplement comes to what is neither complete nor incomplete: it is neither the completeness to come or the completeness achieved. It is maybe para-complete like a self-transcending totality, a potential infinite of sorts. In any case, something like this: it can be supplemented but it needs no complement. It is not complete, but it is not in need of a complementation - it is not final, finite; but it is not yet-to-be-finished or still to be terminated.

In this sense, the supplement connects totality and finitude by connecting totality with termination, with what is already done, with fully ready (and with the fully present). This is the connection between what is in process - and never fully terminated - and the supplement. Supplementation is never awaited, but it is never pre-empted.

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