From time to time the voice of an anonymous narrator intrudes, but far from the surreptitious intervention of a unifying authorial voice, these fragmentary interruptions only further weaken the coherence of the dialogues. Such dispersion would seem to disallow the notion of subjectivity within the so-called "characters" because of a constant movement from subject to subject and the ensuing dislocation within the axis of the speaking voice. The quest for origins focuses less on the concept of an internal world which is to be discovered and highly prized, than upon the social relationships which insure social cohesion and communication.
Any such statement concerning the individual subject as self must have immediate consequences for the corresponding ideological position. Here the status of the referent is of particular importance because access to it comes only through the interlocutors. Let us concentrate for a moment on the representation of Tahiti as the Old Man portrays it in his speech. Finally, the Old Man speaks neither about nature nor even about Tahitian society. Rather, his discourse projects an ideological critique of the excesses and abuses of society as an institution which, far from rejecting civilization, tends to confirm the value of the social structure; the norm is actually reinforced by the focus on transgression.
The Old Man may speak in the name of his society, but he does so in a classical and artificial discourse meaningful only within that society which he would so bitterly oppose. In contrast to the Old Man, who purports to be the spokesman for all Tahiti, Orou and the Almoner—interlocutors of part three—speak both in their own right and their own names, and yet the function of their dialogue is every bit as socially motivated as that of the Old Man.
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Each speaker takes a position which diametrically opposes that of his interlocutor on moral questions marriage, adultery, incest , but the dialogue never pretends to be grounded in a subjectivity—and hence also an intersubjective relationship—which goes beyond language. One interlocutor views himself in his difference to the other only in order to assure social communication. A certain symmetry does arise in the confrontation between Tahiti and Europe as it is evoked within the respective dialogues of the Old Man and Orou, for the discussion in both cases emphasizes the crucial problem of property.
Orou, on the other hand, in his dialogue with the Almoner, puts into question the institutions of European culture and, in particular, marriage as a symptom of the decay of civilization. Not only is there symmetry between the two inner dialogues but also an inverse relationship connecting the individual voice Bougainville and Orou have proper names to the collective voice the Old Man and the Almoner, each as representative of his society :.
Each word, each sentence uttered by an interlocutor takes on meaning only in relation to the person whom he addresses and who is at the same time his opposite.
Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville by Denis Diderot
This reciprocal exchange leads directly to another one, the spatial opposition between Tahiti and Europe. The lack of an intersubjective model as the external structure which would define language internally is not without paradox here. It is not clear in the Supplement, for example, under what conditions social discourse becomes possible. It would seem, moreover, that the symmetrical and ordered oppositions within the interspersed dialogues all those excluding "A" and "B" assure the continuation of a social language which never totally puts itself into question.
The moral contradiction between Tahiti and Europe leaves culture pretty much intact—corrected, reprimanded perhaps, but never totally censured. Diderot evokes this image in the article entitled "The Encyclopedia" from the Encyclopedia itself. The image of the map to convey not only the possibility for progress through knowledge but also the very project of the text entitled the Encyclopedia indicates the importance of assemblage and unification as a means of mastery. Finally, the inner dialogues, which fit neatly into the division between Tahiti and Europe, can be read as the fictive history of a division internal to man.
Such a fall from unity implies, of course, the possibility of redemption.
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The dialogue between "A" and "B" is different from the inner dialogues; it disperses meaning with a seeming alacrity while the others seek unity, a moral statement, from the firm opposition between Tahiti and Europe. A brief sketch of the ideological implications corresponding to the two levels of dialogue will suggest at least a partial explanation for the asymmetry between them.
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Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville (French Edition)
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