Language and Touch 1: (Un)touchable Materiality
The article deals with the question of how to think touch as an intralinguistic phenomenon. For this purpose, as a thought tool, the category of the (un)touchable is introduced. Within the category of the (un)touchable, there is a constructive difference at work, which establishes touch as a function of the (im)possible. Touch as such exists only as non-existent – in the notch between the distance that cannot be overcome (the metaphorical aspect of touch) and the proximity that is always too close (the metonymic aspect of touch). Dealing with the question of touch as an intralinguistic phenomenon, we necessarily bump upon the question of the materiality of language. The article proceeds from the proposition that touch as a such is necessarily tied to certain materiality (there is no non-material touch), which raises the problem of the materiality of language as the axis of deduction. In search for this materiality, any extra-linguistic notion of materiality (i.e. the materiality through which language enters the realm of physiological and physical processes) is left aside. Based on Milner's argument that modern (Galilean) science introduces a new conception of matter – matter without qualities – the article shows, through analysis of both types of relations in language, as set out by Saussure (the relationship between signifier and signified and the relationship between sign and other signs in structure), that the materiality at work in language is precisely matter without qualities, and this itself is nothing but some (un)touchable materiality. Through an additional elaboration, which indicates that touch is inscribed in the very logic of desire, the article puts forward the thesis that desire as such always revolves around some (un)touchable materiality. In the final part, the article shows that Lacan's reversal of Saussure's S/s algorithm, with which he introduces the topic of the unconscious in language and reveals the fact that desire is at work even in those linguistic structures that, according to Saussure, belong to the field of internal linguistics, extrapolates the crucial intralinguistic notion of materiality. It is exactly this materiality, defined as matter without qualities and intertwined with the function of desire, where touch emerges within language as the (im)possible phenomenon.