Real Writing

Is writing seemly? Does the writer cut a respectable figure? Is it proper to write? Is it done?

Of course not.

Jacques Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy”

Yesterday David Gunkel said something puzzling. I have been trying to argue that “ChatGPT can’t write” in a sense that Derrida would acknowledge as such. David’s position is that

ChatGPT is not a “writer” in the human sense. It doesn’t have something it wishes to say (the logocentric conceptualization of “writing”). But it does output sequences of words in/on a medium (the screen). So it does produce writing.


I responded as follows:

I’m pretty sure that for Derrida real writing (human writing) is somewhere between logocentric vouloir dire and producing sequences of words. My argument is that he would not countenance the latter as writing without a trace of difference.

Here’s his puzzling response:

You presume to speak for Derrida. The very concept of ‘real writing’ (as opposed to what would be “apparent writing”) is submitted to the movement of deconstruction. See “Plato’s Pharmacy” and the essays in “Writing and Difference.”


What puzzles me is that David, who is such an enthusiastic reader of Derrida, would, first, reduce the concept of “writing” to the mere production of a sequence of words and, then, dissolve the distinction between a “real” act of writing and a simulacrum. Even humans can fake it, pull one over, dial it in. Surely we can tell when a sequence of words isn’t really a piece of writing? To say that there is no interesting difference to trace here is very strange to me. Especially for the author of book called Deconstruction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *