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Rainer Totzke

Rainer Totzke

Rainer Totzke

Email: totzke [at] grako-schrift.fu-berlin.de

Telephone: +49 30 838 54 102


Postdoctoral  Project

"The Associative Grammar of Thought:
On Non-Textual, Cartographic Script-Games in Philosophical Manuscripts"



Philosophy is, at least within western culture, a fundamentally script-based undertaking.  Nevertheless, many of the attempts that have been made to examine the subtle function script serves within philosophy – what we might call the inclination in philosophy toward “script-games,” a term I use to indicate a concept in writing analogous to Wittgenstein’s notion of “language games” in speech – tend inevitably to narrow the focus of their inquiry onto one certain kind of scriptural practice, that is, onto textual script, the expression of written language.  According to this view, philosophy is considered primarily as an exercise in the production and reception of written texts: of monographs, essays, and dictionary articles.

In contrast to this narrowly textual view of the written culture of philosophy, my project, entitled “The Associative Grammar of Thought,” wishes to draw attention to the many uses of script within philosophy that cannot be called (or can barely be called) textual – at least in the sense of being composed of a linear series of consecutive sentences.  The manuscripts of many philosophers show us that the origin, appropriation and mediation of philosophical ideas owe much to other scriptural operations carried out on the writing surface, such as conceptual sketches, citation fragments, title fragments, and overwriting.  These fragments of script are furthermore linked by graphical operations that – although carried out with words or word-groups – are arranged non-linearly on the paper, often placed over, under or alongside one another, marked out by underlining, strikethrough, boxing, circling, or the drawing of connecting lines between spatially distant words or word-groups.

These non-textual “script-games” become an important thought-aid in the evolution of a manuscript, allowing constellations of concepts, theses and correlated arguments or propositions to be sketched, drafted and tested before being fashioned into a linear text.  Thought is represented in these manuscripts as a type of notational iconicity or, we might even say, intellectual cartography.  We also see in some manuscripts that philosophers often work through new texts and engage new ideas brought up by their correspondents and conversation partners through the use of diagrammatical and notational marks.  In these manuscripts, philosophical innovation arises out of the re-working of pre-existing ideas through precisely these kinds of non-textual script-game methods.  I argue that the notational artifacts – lines, diagrams, arrows, etc. – used by these philosophers constitute an “epistemic surplus” within the work of philosophy, increasing the means by which knowledge can be processed and represented, not only for the author of a given work, but also for those trying to come to terms with and adopt that author’s thought.  Understanding a philosophical argument can thus be meaningfully undertaken not only through the reading of a linear text, but also in the study of non-textual, diagrammatical or cartographical scriptural practices, both within the manuscript and beyond its borders.  For example, teaching philosophy in seminars and lectures requires an elaborate vocabulary of script-images – on the blackboard, on posters, or in PowerPoint – in order to present visual representations of concept relationships, lines of thinking, and the structure of arguments. 

My project has three concrete goals:

  • First, to enumerate and describe, in a phenomenologically adequate fashion, the kinds of non-textual script-game phenomena to be found at all stages of the processes of philosophical writing and philosophical thinking, and to construct a typology of these script-image artifacts, with which philosophers “compose” their thoughts on the writing surface. 
  • Second, to thematise the role these non-textual script-game phenomena play in the process of philosophical reflection, and to define their relationship to the textual and spoken representations of philosophical thought.
  • Third, to examine the consequences that the study of these non-textual script artifacts and their epistemic valence might have for the discipline of philosophy.  That is, to what extent certain fundamental philosophical concepts and philosophy’s own self-image can or should be altered if we consider these non-textual script-games as genuine forms of philosophical practice – both as epistemic tools and as modes of representation.


Curriculum Vitae

Since 11/2008

Postdoctoral fellowship at the DFG Research Training Group “’Notational Iconicity’: On the materiality, perceptibility and operativity of writing”, Free University Berlin


Fellowship by the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony (field: literature): artist in residence in Slovakia


Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Chemnitz University of Technology


Visiting Lecturer, Institute of Philosophy, University of Leipzig

Visiting Lecturer, Institute for Cultural Studies, University of Leipzig (2006)

Organiser of the philosophical colloquium, Institute of Philosophy, University of Leipzig (2006-2007)


Doctorate, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Leipzig
Theme of dissertation: “Literal Orders. Literacy, Science and Heidegger’s Criticism of the Ideology of Science”



Public relations, various non-governmental environmental organisations, Leipzig



Doctoral studies, Fellowship at the Research Training Group „Ambivalences of Occidentalisation“, Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Leipzig


Journalism and Cultural Studies, University of Leipzig


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