Explaining Derrida with Diagrams 2: Messianicity without messianism

Derrida's key thoughts explained for non-philosophers, with the help of diagrams

In a previous post I introduced the very idea of Diagramming Derrida before explaining his notion of différance diagrammatically. In this post I set out to tackle the idea of “messianicity without messianism” and, more generally, Derrida’s characteristic motif of “x without x”, for example “religion without religion” or “God without God”.

Messianism as Derrida understands it can be either religious or secular. His main religious reference is Jewish messianism, the hope for the future appearing of God’s anointed who will bring justice and peace on earth and who will restore the fortunes of God’s people. The present is lived in expectation of the future time when messianic prophecy will be fulfilled.
Derrida, Jewish MessianismThe primary secular messianism, as far as Derrida is concerned, is to be found in Marx’s philosophy of history, according to which the inevitable proletarian revolution will bring about, after a period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a classless society of justice and peace. As in the case of Jewish messianism, the present is lived in confident expectation of the inevitable future overturning of fortunes.

Derrida, Marxian or Marxist Messianism

Both these messianisms have a determinate content: we know what will happen to bring justice and peace (the coming of Yahweh’s Messiah or the overthrow of the capitalist system by a proletarian revolution). But in terms of his own thinking what Derrida offers is not this or that determinate messianism but what he sometimes calls “messianicity without messianism,” or “structural messianism” or again a messianism “which I regard as a universal structure of experience, and which cannot be reduced to religious messianism of any stripe” (‘Marx and Sons’, 248). He seeks to maintain the expectation of a future overturning of the status quo (= “messianicity”) without ascribing that change to any determinate agent (= “without messianism”).

Derrida, Messianicity without Messianism

Derrida retains the structure of the promise of something to come, an “endless promise” (‘This Strange Institution Called Literature’, 38) in that it can never be co-opted or reduced to any particular determinate content. What will come is not any named Messiah but “the most irreducibly heterogeneous otherness” (‘Marx and Sons’, 249) which means that whatever it is it that comes, it will certainly not be what, or who, we are expecting. As for the transformation that this advent will bring about, Derrida describes it as the “democracy to come,” by which he does not mean the linear prolongation into the future of contemporary systems of parliamentary and representative democracy, but a disruptive, non-linear “event” which is unforeseeable and unexpected:

The event must also announce itself as im-possible; it must thus announce itself without calling in advance, without forewarning, announcing itself without announcing itself, without any horizon of expectation, any telos, formation, form, or teleological preformation. Whence its always monstrous, unpresentable character, demonstrable as un-monstrable. (Rogues, 144)

This figure of the monstrous parallels Derrida’s insistence on the justice that exceeds all calculable law. If we could predict what is to come then it would no longer be radically other to what already exists but an event within the current horizon of expectation, and it is this calculable predictability of the future that Derrida wants to avoid at all costs: “A future that would not be monstrous would not be a future; it would already be a predictable, calculable, and programmable tomorrow” (Positions, 387). What Derrida is seeking to do here is retain certain formal, structural features of theological messianism while evacuating it of its determinant content. This does not mean, though, that the democracy to come is radically unknown and that, to put it crudely, it could be anything. Derrida does specify that the democracy to come will bring about the impossible concurrent realisation of absolute freedom (and singularity) and absolute equality (and equivalence). Freedom and equality are both necessary for democracy, but also contradictory because equality demands that people be thought of as equivalent, and freedom that they be thought of as singular.

The evocation of freedom and equality means that, though the advent of the democracy to come will be monstrous, it is not radically indeterminate. If another Hitler-like figure were to come, for example, with a National Socialist ideology of Aryan supremacy, Derrida would have no hesitation at all in affirming that the figure is not that for which he was waiting. The “to come” will surprise our expectations, but it will not surprise the deconstructive expectation of surprise.

So what, then, are we to make of this absolute freedom and equality? Have we caught Derrida smuggling some determinacy back into his supposedly indeterminate ethics and politics? Is the universal democracy-to-come in fact a badly disguised reworking of the freedom and equality of French republicanism? Some have certainly thought so, arguing that if the monstrous to-come is truly other and unpredictable then it must be possible for it to be evil and despotic just as much as benevolent and benign, and “what I welcome as a vital chance may turn out to be a lethal threat.”[1] Derrida does have a response to such criticism, however. Take the example of Hitler again: his ideology relies upon a series of determinations, divisions and categories: Jew and Gentile: Aryan and non-Aryan, and so on, and therefore it sets itself up directly against the indeterminacy which Derrida is seeking to place at the heart of his ethics and politics. The absolute freedom and absolute equality of which Derrida speaks, by contrast, introduce no rigid distinctions between different groups of people (or, as some of his later work explores, no fixed and rigid distinctions between humans and “non-human” animals either) and so it could be argued that it enacts, on the level of political content, the ontological openness which Derrida prizes. All are to be equal without distinction; all are to be free without exception. Of all possible political systems, it could be argued, the democracy to come is the least determinate and prescriptive.


[1] Martin Hägglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008) 31.

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Explaining Derrida with Diagrams 1: Différance

Derrida's key thoughts explained for non-philosophers, with the help of diagrams

I’m writing a little book on Derrida which is intended to be accessible to non-philosophers, and one of the challenges is to explain Derrida’s thought both faithfully and clearly. I have decided to use diagrams as one way of helping readers to grasp what Derrida is saying and, equally importantly, what he isn’t saying. I am aware that there are both advantages and disadvantages to diagramming a thinker like Derrida, the disadvantages lying not least in the way that diagrams force a spatializating paradigm on ideas and privilege their expression in terms of relations between distinct territories on a static, two-dimensional surface. Nevertheless, I am convinced that, on balance, the approach will help more people to understand more of Derrida than would otherwise be the case.

In this series of posts I want to share a number of these diagrams, both in the hope that readers of these posts might find them helpful in grappling with Derrida’s thought, and also in the hope of receiving readerly feedback to help me refine them further.

In this post I will introduce the diagrams I use to explain what Derrida does not mean by différance (and, in the final diagram, what he does mean).

Let’s back up and start with the relation between speech and writing. In the traditional Western understanding (most saliently for Derrida: Plato, Rousseau, Saussure), the meaning of speech is immediate and present, whereas the meaning of writing is distant and imperfect. We can represent this hierarchy by situating speech to the left of writing (i.e. before it, if we read from left to right) and above writing (i.e. privileged over it).

Derrida has sometimes wrongly been understood simply to be reversing the hierarchy between the two terms, putting writing in a place of privilege over speech. Such a reversal would, to be sure, change the content of the hierarchy, but it would do nothing to challenge or disrupt the hierarchical structure itself: there would still be a privileged and underprivileged term which would need deconstructing.

So Derrida does not simply privilege writing over speech. Nor, to take things a stage further, does he merely deny any difference whatsoever between the two terms, as if “speech” and “writing” could be used interchangeably:

What Derrida claims instead is that “différance” (a term I shall explain at the end of this post) is a condition of both of speech and writing (in other words: they couldn’t exist without it), but not in the sense of being something outside, anterior or separate from them, so this next diagram is still a misunderstanding of Derridean différance:

Différance does not precede the elements of the opposition it makes possible; it is their mode of existence, just as in traditional Western metaphysics presence itself does not precede that which is present but is rather the way in which things appear to an all-knowing consciousness: things are completely present to a God-like consciousness, without any shadows or ambiguities. It is important for us to grasp, therefore, that différance is not a thing in itself, as Derrida is at pains to stress:

What we note as différance will thus be the movement of play that “produces” (and not by something that is simply an activity) these differences, these effects of difference. This does not mean that the différance which produces differences is before them in a simple and in itself unmodified and indifferent present. Différance is the nonfull, nonsimple “origin”; it is the structured and differing origin of differences. (Speech and Phenomena, 141)

It is also important to grasp one further nuance. For traditional metaphysics, presence is how everything exists: whatever exists exists in so far as it can be immediately present to my consciousness. In the same way, différance for Derrida is the condition of possibility of my experiencing anything at all. We could think of presence and différance as the contrast not between two things but between two adverbs: according to traditional Western metaphysics, truth and meaning exist “presently,” but according to Derrida they exist “différantly.” Différance is not what there is, but how everything is:

A further point to make about this final diagram is that we do not first of all experience empty différance and then fill it with speech and writing (any more than, on the traditional view, we first experience empty presence and then fill it with things that are present). The condition of différance is retrojected from our experience of things that exist “différantly”.

So then, for Derrida everything that exists exists “différantly.” Jolly good. But what is différance? It is the condition of being according to which “there is no experience of pure presence, but only chains of differential marks” (Limited Inc, 10). Derrida coins the neologism différance to indicate that “presence” is always different from itself and deferred with relation to itself. Nothing is ever fully and exhaustively present, as if we had a God’s-eye view or a God’s-mind understanding of it, in other words as if we could see or understand it perfetly and exhaustively. Everything always has a shadow side, more to discover, an excess over and above what we can grasp of it. Derrida is not claiming, please note, that everything is always absolutely absent from our consciousness, or that we can never know or discern anything in the world in a way that is adequate for many purposes. Nor is he claiming that the objects of our experience have no meaning at all. He is claiming that everything that exists exists différantly.

The French verb différer can mean both “to differ” and “to defer,” and by changing the usual spelling of différence to différance Derrida introduces a distinction that is only discernible in writing (for the two spellings are pronounced identically). This is a challenge to the traditional Western idea that meaning is always completely present in speech but dislocated and distant in writing: in this case the nuance is only discernible in the written form. Elsewhere, Derrida calls différance an “arche-writing” (from the Greek arche, meaning “beginning” or “origin”, French: archi-écriture), the condition of non-self-presence from which both speech and writing are derived. Arche-writing is not the same as writing as opposed to speech, and différance is not the same as difference as opposed to identity; arche-writing is the condition of possibility both of speech and writing (in other words it makes them both possible in the first place), and différance is the condition of possibility both of difference and identity.

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CC Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee on Flickr

Can you help me subtitle my book on Derrida? Describe him in five words or fewer

Derrida at his deskI have a little book on Derrida coming out later this year, aimed at an advanced undergraduate and postgraduate readership and accessible to non-philosophers. Its aim is to explain Derrida’s thought as clearly and faithfully as possible using diagrams and examples, and then to bring him into conversation with the prologue of John’s gospel in the Bible. Fun.

So far so good. But what do you subtitle a book on Derrida in a series called “Great Thinkers”? That’s a tough one, an open invitation to pigeon-hole him in a thoroughly un-Derridean way before you even get past the book’s cover.

Here are some of the options that went back and forth between me and the publisher.

  • “Jacques Derrida: Father of Deconstruction”. I don’t think so.
  • “The (De)Construction of Idea(s)”. No, on so many levels.
  • “Jacques Derrida: Founder of Deconstruction.” Over my dead body.
  • “Jacques Derrida: Deconstructing the Transcendental”. Hardly inviting for non-philosophers.
  • “Jacques Derrida: An Outsider Several Times Over”. This one is a quotation from Lesslie Hill’s Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Derrida. I thought it gave the wrong impression about privileging the “outside” over the “inside”, which course is not what Derrida does.

So, what did we go for? Here it is: “Jacques Derrida: Host of Deconstuction”. OK, it doesn’t work as well as “hôte de la déconstruction” would in French, but it does have the merit of wresting at least some agency from Derrida and gesturing towards deconstruction as “what happens” (to use his own description). Also, it hints at the ambiguity of Derrida’s relation to “deconstruction”. Finally, casting deconstruction as a parasite invites the idea of the necessary supplement: we could not live without the “alien” parasites in—for example—our gut.

Do you have a better idea? I’d love to hear it, and may end up asking your permission to use it (with appropriate acknowledgment, of course).

Third Derrida Podcast: Derrida, Atheism and Theology

The third of the podcasts on Derrida and Reformed theology has now been released. The first considered questions of metaphysics and the second focused on Derrida’s ethics; this final podcast discusses Derrida’s engagement with theological themes.

I begin by discussing Derrida’s cautious affirmation that “I rightly pass for an atheist”, and try to dismantle the myth that, for Derrida, God can be whatever you want him/her/it to be. I trace Derrida’s rejection of the god of onto-theology and then explain why he returns to the trope of “x without x” (religion without religion, God without God…), using the example of “messianicity without messianism” and his affirmation of a democracy to come.

I note that, while Reformed theology shares with Derrida a rejection of the God of onto-theology, absolute personality theism is nevertheless very different from both the God of metaphysics and Derrida’s own position, and that introducing absolute personality Trinitarianism into the conversation shows that ontotheology and Derrida have a number of key commitments in common. After a brief discussion of divine accommodation in Calvin I contrast messianicity without messinaism with the account of predestination in Ephesians 1, offering a note of caution with respect to Derridean openness to the other-to-come. I finish by summing up some of the principles that I have found helpful in staging an engagement between Derrida and Reformed theology.

Derrida's theology

Second in the Derrida and Reformed Theology Podcast series: Derrida’s Ethics

In this episode I talk very briefly about the growing willingness to accept, from the mid 1990s onwards, that deconstruction is indeed ethical, before tackling the myth that Derrida is a relativist. I unpack the phrase “tout autre est tout autre” (“every other is wholly other”) from Derrida’s reading of Kierkegaard on Genesis 22 and then introduce the notions of double bind and aporia in relation to Force of Law. In the second half of the episode I reflect on “tout autre est tout autre” in relation to Colossians 1:16-17, and on the difference between law and justice in the context of absolute personality theism.

Derrida's Ethics

Rethinking alterity and logocentrism after phenomenology with Serres’s L’Hermaphrodite: Sarrasine sculpteur (1987)

This post is part of the series of draft entries for a Michel Serres dictionary.


Conv: Serres and Latour, Conversations on Culture, Science and Time

TI: Serres, Le Tiers instruit

One of Serres’s three book-length engagements with literary authors, l’Hermaphrodite was written significantly later than Jouvences (1974, on Jules Verne) and Feux et signaux de brume (1975, on Emile Zola). According to the thematic bibliography at the end of La Légende des anges it belongs in a group of texts under the rubric “Equilibrium and Foundations”, along with Rome, Statues, Les origines de la géométrie, Détachement, The Natural Contract and The Troubadour of Knowledge. Thematically, its closest cousin in Serres’s oeuvre is Les Cinq sens (1985), from which it picks up and reworks the theme of “mixed bodies”.

The text presents itself as a reading of Balzac’s short story “Sarrasine”, a reading that spirals in and out of the text and ranges over a broad range of textual features including individual words (“Sarrasine”, “Zambinella”), images and themes, to its construction in two halves and even the biography of its author. In the course of his engagement with Balzac’s story, Serres distances himself from prevailing notions of critique and otherness and elaborates an alternative, hermaphroditic understanding of alterity and the Western logos.

Critique, system, algorithm

L’Hermaphrodite is very far from offering a critical reading of Balzac’s short story. In fact, Serres sets his own approach in sharp contradistinction to the norms of academic critique. He has nothing but scorn for what he calls the method of defining, destroying and analysing (83) that exerts a stranglehold over the arts and human sciences, a method whose one modus operandi is to seek out heresy wherever it is to be found (and frequently where it is not) by means of judging a particular text against a pre-existing systematic architecture. For Serres, such critique invents nothing, adds nothing, and achieves nothing. Its atomising method is sectarian, and it grinds its object to powder only to see it run through its analytical fingers. We might see in this rejection of a dividing, opposing atomising engagement with texts an oblique reference to Roland Barthes’s reading of “Sarrasine” in S/Z, with its division of the text into 561 lexemes to be analysed in terms of five codes, and depending as it does on antithesis and distinction. However directly Serres is intending to impugn Barthes, he certainly has in his cross-hairs a figure of the Cartesian geometrical an analytical method at which he has been taking aim since Le Système de Leibniz, and in L’Hermaphrodite Serres makes it his business to offer an alternative to this Cartesianism. In opposition to a moribund, divisive and self-cannibalising academicism which reads the text as a self-contained system, Serres’s own approach is to find in the text an algorithm endlessly capable of generating new meanings beyond itself.

Balzac’s incipit: liminality and alterity

He begins by noting that “Sarrasine” opens with the narrator on “a spatial and temporal threshold” (65), seated in a window bay at midnight. On his right he sees a dance of death with snow-covered trees, and on his left a Bacchanalian ball with laughter and music. These two contrasting realities meet in his own body: his right leg is cold and still while his left is keeping time with the music. Similarly, midnight is the moment at which two days meet, the moment that belongs to two days at once, at which 2400 is interchangeable with 0000. The relation Serres is exploring with these spatial and temporal motifs is not the absolute alterity of Levinas or Derrida, even in an impure form, and his liminality is not the Kantian limit or the phenomenological horizon but a meeting-and-mingling, a “mixed body” or a mixed salad (une macédoine) that describes a gesture to which Serres will return time and again in this text. The world of Serres’s “Sarrasine” is one in which opposites not only meet but mingle and, as we shall see, exceed the binary of identity and alterity.

The figure of the hermaphrodite: castration as plenitude

The primary figure of such liminality and alterity in the text is the eponymous hermaphrodite. Serres’s title, however, could at first glance appear somewhat misleading: surely Balzac’s Zambinella is not a hermaphrodite but a castrato. The slide from castration to hermaphroditism is deliberate on Serres’s part, however, for his purpose is to rethink the motif of castration in a hermaphroditic way, offering a reading of the trope that stands distinct from its customary connotation of lack. For this new understanding, castration itself is not a moment of loss or exclusion but rather, as Serres puts it, of “the exclusion of exclusion” (81). The phallus is the original division, the cut that separates the genders, and to take away this separation is not a bare loss but a retrogression to an indeterminacy prior to sexuation, prior to any binary division into genders. It is an exclusion of the exclusionary logic of gender, found at the centre of Balzac’s story when the young sculptor carves a phallus on the altar both in a gesture of castration and also as a sacrificial offering (94). Serres reasons that, existing as we do within the system of division and opposition, it is only when exclusion itself is excluded that the original apeiron (indeterminacy) of hermaphroditism can be regained. This is far from castration as impotence, Serres insists, for “certain castrati, far from being impotent, were reputed for their amorous exploits” (Conv 99).

It is in this way that the hermaphrodite is a further development of one of Serres’s most persistent character-concepts: Hermes. Born of a union of Hermes and Aphrodite, Hermaphroditus is both man and woman (as opposed to being neither man nor woman). He is Hermes in all his plenitude, Hermes in excess of Hermes. In what is surely an echo of Albert Camus’s “we must imagine Sisyphus happy” from The Myth of Sisyphus, Serres insists that “we must think of Hermes as full to overflowing” (“il faut concevoir Hermès comblé”, 87-8), as a “mixed body”, a unifier in himself of opposites.

Serres’s hermaphroditic alterity

In L’Hermaphrodite, Serres elaborates a hermaphroditic account of alterity that challenges the orthodoxies of “otherness” bequeathed to French thought through the phenomenological tradition.  There are two aspects of this account of alterity that set it apart from simple opposition. The first is that it is not the meeting of two equal and opposite instances, but a welcoming of alterity into one side of the opposition. Serres takes his own (and, he suspects, Balzac’s) left-handedness as an example. The left-handed person is not merely the opposite of the right-hander, but in our right-handed world she has to be somewhat ambidextrous: The left-handed person is a “lateral hermaphrodite” (TI 36) and, rather than merely standing in opposition to right-handedness, she has found a “metastable” (67) relation of the two. Similarly, darkness welcomes light into it, but light does not welcome darkness and, in the same way, the hermaphrodite itself is not, for Serres, a figure of plenitude as opposed to lack, but a figure of the plenitude of plenitude and lack. In one final example, Zambinella and Sarrasine are not simply opposites but Zambinella is both male and female, suggested by the Italian Ambinella, which in Italian can be taken to mean “the two in her” (74): the hermaphrodite.

Serres also explores this hermaphroditic thinking in terms of the relation between the arts. The music of Zambinella’s performances and the statues sculpted by Sarrasine do not represent two straightforwardly opposite or incommensurable art forms. Music is the fluid, wandering art (which can be located neither in the score nor on the plucked string), and sculpture trades in stasis and death, an art born of the ancient embalmer’s craft that transforms being-there into “here lies” (101). In familiar Serresian terms, sculpture is “hard” and music is “soft”, but this does not mean that they are in simple opposition. They are made to accord with each other by the “third man” they both exclude, namely the literary narrative of Balzac’s Sarrasine itself (127): “Sarrasine” is the hermaphrodite born of both music and sculpture. In addition, music itself returns us to a moment before stasis, before the solid definition of the body: music is the apeiron of the arts (129), the only art not to be imprisoned and defined by a “frozen” meaning (140). We might venture here a distinction between subjective and objective hermaphroditism. Left-handedness is a subjective hermaphroditism because the relation between opposites is accomplished in one of the opposing terms, whereas the joining of music and sculpture in “Sarrasine” is an objective hermaphroditism because the narrative is neither the music nor the sculpture that it brings together.

Hermaphroditic alterity is further developed in Serres’s brief treatment of the motif of logos. Like Derrida, he discerns and describes a propensity for exclusion and division in the Greek and Biblical logoi (85), but unlike Derrida’s deconstruction of logocentrism from within he discerns an alternative, “more supple, more gelatinous [agglutinant] and positive” (85) logos in Arab thought, in the Renaissance and, most significantly for Serres’s wider thought, in Leibniz. It is not a logos of the system but of the hidden formalism of the algorithm; not a closed net of meanings but a radial web of correspondences. What is more, Serres argues, this alternative, Leibnizian logos is the logos appropriate for a culture of information and electronic data transfer, not the old Greek logos of light but a new logos of speed: the logos of our computer age.

The nature of this “gelatinous” logos is most fully explained in L’Hermaphrodite through Serres’s evocation of enantiomorphy, which is also the second aspect by which hermaphroditic alterity is distinguished it from simple opposition. Two structural forms are enantiomorphic when they mirror each other but are not identical (for example: the left and right hands); they are symmetrical, but not congruent. Enantiomorphy, therefore, resolves neither, in the final analysis, to identity nor to alterity, nor again to a mixture of the two. Two enantiomorphic structures are at the same time quite opposite and quite identical (74), and the “same” and “other” have become twins (71). The logic of antithesis and the lexicon of identity and difference are wholly inadequate to describe this hermaphroditic alterity.

Serres also seeks to move away from the (Greek) logos by insisting on the centrality of the body in his notion of alterity. In the opening passage of “Sarrasine” it is in the narrator’s body that life and death, heat and cold, movement and stasis meet, and Serres stresses the body’s pre-linguistic signification in a way that mirrors the way he considers music in relation to the other arts. The body gives us “meaning before language” (75), a meaning that understands and incorporates everything carnally, before the cuts and incisions of the geometric logos. The body does not know its limits, either internally between its organs or externally with the world, and we all retain a trace of an original corporeal mixture (129). Carnal sense (in which we may permit ourselves to hear echoes of Merleau-Ponty’s logos endiathetos from Prose of the World and the incrusted meanings of flesh from The Visible and the Invisible) is hermaphroditic.

Enantiomorphy also allows Serres to rehabilitate totality, a notion which has fallen into desuetude and has been all too easily equated with totalitarianism by phenomenological thought. Serres, by contrast, does not resile from insisting that the hermaphrodite is a figure of inclusive totality (47). Thought according to the Greek system-logos, totality is a violent closure and a false claim to have exhausted the complexity of singularity that needs to be resisted or deconstructed, but according to Leibniz’s algorithm-logos it is not a foreclosure of meaning but an opening to relation, the promise that the most opposed phenomena can be understood enantiomorphically.


With his notion of hermaphroditic alterity, Serres splits the horns of the same/other dyad, offering an alternative account to Derrida’s construction of Western logocentrism, his insistence that “every other is wholly other”, and his deconstruction of oppositions from within. Whereas, for Derrida, the limit or parergon is undecidably both inside and outside that which it demarcates, for Serres the (carnal) pre-linguistic logos is an apeiron that births not binary oppositions but enantiomorphic relations. Serres’s hermaphroditic alterity also stands in contrast to the way in which the discourse of alterity is customarily deployed in debates within and between “equality feminism” and “difference feminism”, and his rethinking of the castrate not as a figure of lack but of plenitude is particularly suggestive in the context of those feminist discourses influenced by Freud’s ideas.

Significantly, if we follow Serres’s account then positions such as Derrida’s and those of difference and equality feminisms alike are, prima facie, complicit with that which they seek to reject, for an analysis that starts with antithesis arrives inexorably at castration, but one that starts with enantiomorphy leads to the hermaphrodite and inclusion (86). The former, resting on the Greek system-logos, is a philosophy of Babel; the latter, stemming from Leibniz’s algorithm-logos a philosophy of Pentecost (78) and universal compatibility. It is the latter dynamic that Serres finds at work in Balzac’s “Sarrasine”.