When DeRose Met Derrida
“We awoke to find all the old gods dead” F Scott Fitzgerald
This piece is about postmodernism and its relationship to Bitcoin and is inspired by a recent blog covering an exchange between Chris DeRose and Bitcoin Core (the custodians — or gatekeepers — of Bitcoin development).
A summary of events is Chris made a content-less proposal to Bitcoin Core, for no other reason than highlighting the contradiction of a hidden hierarchy existing [within] a supposedly decentralised governance structure.
I became compelled to make a translation, as it’s redolent of something I first encountered around two decades ago when loitering in a second hand book shop: postmodernism and an associated school of thought, deconstruction.
His work is notoriously difficult to follow, but a translation can be made in context to Chris’s recent interlude with Core.
It is relevant to note (in relation to Chris’s podcast, below) that Derrida’s most famous saying is “there is no out-of-context” (il n’y a pas de hors-texte) and [Derrida] was directly influenced by Nietzsche and (Nietzsche’s) point in Daybreak that at the end of modern history; modern thinkers know too much to be deceived by the illusion of reason.
Deconstruction suggests there is no language for a ‘privileged concept’ to construct an accurate worldview — and where such a worldview (or idea-logo) exists, it can be deconstructed.
This is why Derrida frequently asserted Western philosophy has allowed ‘logocentrism’ to uncritically create metaphorical depth to models which govern its conception of language and consciousness.
Bitcoin Core shows us something in this nature and Chris has expertly brought this forward.
This is the something F Scott Fitzgerald refers in awaking to find all the old gods dead: that money is being reconstituted (or deconstructed) — and the old attitudes toward [it] difficult to give up.
What DeRose has done however — and this is where I find the segue between Chris and Derrida — is to show whilst Bitcoin is reconstituting how we think about money; Bitcoin Core perpetuate the old ways — and we can find a Derrida insight here, to further illuminate DeRose’s ruse.
“Derrida asked the question: Must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something? …At the same time, in order that there be movement or potential, the origin cannot be some pure unity or simplicity, but must already be articulated — complex — such that from it a “diachronic” process can emerge.” Wikipedia
In the podcast linked below (c. 2.50min) Chris raises the suggestion of Bitcoin’s ‘immaculate conception’.
The guest Pierre Rochard — who is aligned with Bitcoin Core — takes the opposite view: that Bitcoin was born in a state of complete centralisation [and sin] and has been repenting for it ever since.
The Invisible Hand
I have previously speculated Satoshi Nakamoto — inventor of Bitcoin — may have been influenced by modern French philosophy or at the least, his work existing in parallel with the drivers of postmodernism.
In an attempt to find evidence of this, I found this publication ‘Hands: Visible and Invisible’. The article can be viewed in full for free (on a subscription allowance), but the front page gives a good flavour:
The paper talks how post modern thinking and deconstruction has influenced all disciplines, but specifically shows [in the nature of economics] how game theory has re-orientated Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. In the final segment, it says “in the making of markets, conflict resolution has been achieved from time out of mind”.
Bitcoin Core and the Diachronic
In the podcast above and in answer to Chris’s question around what Bitcoin may be — and can it be understood as our fathers and their fathers may have understood other technologies— Pierre (c.27mins) replies that words can’t be transferred from one context to another… Linux is a different context to Bitcoin.
I think the answer Chris was simply looking for, is that Bitcoin is about trust [in all forms and at all levels]. As such, we can then begin to consider Bitcoin as a consilience of all forms of knowledge — and not just money or economics.
I believe Core have become wrapped up in such a narrated and constructed view of what Bitcoin is or could be, they haven’t a real understanding of it’s genesis — and Derrida would have seen this.
There is no out-of-context.