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1.French philosopher and critic (born in Algeria); exponent of deconstructionism (1930-2004)
philosophe célèbre (fr)[Classe]
métier : sciences humaines (fr)[Classe]
Jacques Derrida (n.)
July 15, 1930|
El Biar, French Algeria
|Died||October 9, 2004
|Notable ideas||Deconstruction · Différance · Phallogocentrism · Metaphysics of presence|
Jacques Derrida ( / /; French pronunciation: [ʒak dɛʁida]; July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004) was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy.
His more than 40 published books, together with essays and public speaking, has had a significant impact upon the humanities, particularly on Anthropology, Sociology, Semiotics, Jurisprudence, Literary Theory and Cultural Studies in general. His influence in the academe in Continental Europe, South America and all countries where continental philosophy is predominant, is enormous; becoming crucial in debates around Ontology, Epistemology (especially concerning Social Sciences), Ethics, Esthetics, Hermeneutics and Philosophy of Language.
His work also influenced architecture (in the form of deconstructivism), music, art and art critics. Particularly in his later writings, he frequently addressed ethical and political themes, and his work influenced various activist and other political movements.
Derrida was born on July 15, 1930, in El Biar (Algiers), then French Algeria, into a Sephardic Jewish family originally from Toledo that became French in 1870 when the Crémieux Decree granted full French citizenship to the indigenous Arabic-speaking Jews of French Algeria. He was the third of five children. His parents, Aimé Derrida (1896–1970) and Georgette Sultana Esther Safar (1901–1991), named him Jackie, after American actor Jackie Coogan though he would later adopt a more "correct" version of his first name when he moved to Paris. His youth was spent in El-Biar, Algeria.
On the first day of the school year in 1942, Derrida was expelled from his lycée by French administrators implementing anti-Semitic quotas set by the Vichy government. He secretly skipped school for a year rather than attend the Jewish lycée formed by displaced teachers and students, and also took part in numerous football competitions (he dreamed of becoming a professional player). In this adolescent period, Derrida found in the works of philosophers and writers such as Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Gide, an instrument of revolt against the family and society:
|“||It is true that my interest in literature, diaries, journals in general, also signified a typical, stereotypical revolt against the family. My passion for Nietzsche, Rousseau, and also Gide, whom I read a lot at that time, meant among other things: "Families, I hate you." I thought of literature as the end of the family, and of the society it represented.||”|
His readings also included Camus and Sartre. On his first day at the École Normale Supérieure, Derrida met Louis Althusser, with whom he became friends. After visiting the Husserl Archive in Leuven, Belgium, he completed his philosophy agrégation on Edmund Husserl. Derrida received a grant for studies at Harvard University, and he spent the 1956–7 academic year reading Joyce's Ulysses at the Widener Library. In June 1957, he married the psychoanalyst Marguerite Aucouturier in Boston. During the Algerian War of Independence, Derrida asked to teach soldiers' children in lieu of military service, teaching French and English from 1957 to 1959.
Following the war, from 1960 to 1964, Derrida taught philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he was assistant of Suzanne Bachelard (daughter of Gaston), Canguilhem, Paul Ricœur (who in these years coined the term School of suspicion) and Jean Wahl. His wife, Marguerite, gave birth to their first child, Pierre, in 1963. In 1964, on the recommendation of Althusser and Jean Hyppolite, Derrida got a permanent teaching position at the École Normale Supérieure, which he kept until 1984. In 1965 Derrida began an association with the Tel Quel group of literary and philosophical theorists, which lasted for seven years. Derrida's subsequent distance from the Tel Quel group, after 1971, has been attributed to his reservations about their embrace of Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
With "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", his contribution to a 1966 colloquium on structuralism at Johns Hopkins University, his work began to assume international prominence. At the same colloquium, Derrida would meet Jacques Lacan and Paul de Man, the latter an important interlocutor in the years to come. A second son, Jean, was born in 1967. In the same year, Derrida published his first three books—Writing and Difference, Speech and Phenomena, and Of Grammatology.
He completed his Thèse d'État in 1980, submitting his previously published books in conjunction with a defense of his intellectual project; the text of Derrida's defense was subsequently published in English translation as "The Time of a Thesis: Punctuations." In 1983 Derrida collaborated with Ken McMullen on the film Ghost Dance. Derrida appears in the film as himself and also contributed to the script.
Derrida traveled widely and held a series of visiting and permanent positions. Derrida was director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. With François Châtelet and others he in 1983 co-founded the Collège international de philosophie (CIPH), an institution intended to provide a location for philosophical research which could not be carried out elsewhere in the academy. He was elected as its first president. In 1985 Sylviane Agacinski gave birth to Derrida's third child, Daniel.
In 1986, Derrida became Professor of the Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. UCI and the Derrida family are currently involved in a legal dispute regarding exactly what materials constitute his archive, part of which was informally bequeathed to the university. He was a regular visiting professor at several other major American and European universities, including Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, New York University, Stony Brook University, The New School for Social Research, and European Graduate School.
He was awarded honorary doctorates by Cambridge University (1992), Columbia University, The New School for Social Research, the University of Essex, University of Leuven, Williams College and University of Silesia.
Derrida has often been criticized by academics, such as the analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine. In 1992, a number of analytical philosophers from Cambridge University and external institutions tried to stop the granting of the degree, but were outnumbered when it was put to a vote. Derrida suggested in an interview that part of the reason for the violent attacks on his work, was that it questioned and modified "the rules of the dominant discourse, it tries to politicize and democratize education and the university scene."
Derrida was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Although his membership in Class IV, Section 1 (Philosophy and Religious Studies) was rejected; he was subsequently elected to Class IV, Section 3 (Literary Criticism, including Philology.) He received the 2001 Adorno-Preis from the University of Frankfurt.
Late in his life, Derrida participated in two biographical documentaries, D'ailleurs, Derrida [Derrida's Elsewhere] by Saafa Fathy (1999), and Derrida by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman (2002).
At the time of his death, Derrida had agreed to go for the summer to Heidelberg as holder of the Gadamer professorship, whose invitation was expressed by the hermeneutic philosopher himself before his death. Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, Rector at Heidelberg by that time, would resume Derrida's place as: "Beyond the boundaries of philosophy as an academic discipline he was a leading intellectual figure not only for the humanities but for the cultural perception of a whole age."
Derrida called his approach "deconstruction" Deconstruction has become associated with the attempt to expose and undermine the oppositions, hierarchies and paradoxes on which particular texts, philosophical and otherwise, are founded.
Derrida's strategy involved a phase of thinking in a dual way about everything, to the point that
Derrida considered that when encountering what he called a "classical philosophical opposition", one never encounters "peaceful coexistence" of the two opposing concepts, but rather a "violent hierarchy", where one of the two dominates over the other.
In order to begin the deconstruction, one must break the link between the two opposing concepts.
But, as a second step, Derrida added that one must do what is needed so that the two concepts stay separate and non hierarchical. In order to achieve this, one must intervene in the field effectively, to create new marks, a new concept that no longer be, and never could be included in the previous regime.
Derrida said this phase was structural and that it was "the necessity of an interminable analysis" because "the hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself".
To mark the undecidable of all oppositions working across all texts in western culture, he created marks like
Perhaps Derrida's most quoted and famous assertion, which appears in an essay on Rousseau in his book Of Grammatology (1967), is the statement that "there is nothing outside the text" (il n'y a pas de hors-texte),. Critics of Derrida have quoted it as a slogan to characterize and stigmatize deconstruction. Derrida once explained that this assertion "which for some has become a sort of slogan, in general so badly understood, of deconstruction (...) means nothing else: there is nothing outside context. In this form, which says exactly the same thing, the formula would doubtless have been less shocking. I am not certain that it would have provided more to think about.
The end of deconstruction has been trumpeted by many in academe since the late 1980s. Nevertheless, deconstruction and Derrida’s popularity continued to increase. In 2002 a feature-length documentary on his life and work, filmed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, achieved commercial success in the United States as well as internationally. One of Derrida’s last public speaking appearances—in Campbell Hall at the University of California at Santa Barbara (late October, 2003)— produced attendance that exceeded the seating capacity of the hall (900). The continuing stream of books on Derrida— over 150 titles since 2000 versus about 25 for John Searle and about 40 for Richard Rorty, for example — indicates no abatement in the popularity of deconstruction in relation to other competing trends in Philosophy.
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Derrida approaches all texts as constructed around elemental oppositions which all speech has to articulate if it intends to make any sense whatsoever. This is so because identity is viewed in non-essentialist terms as a construct, and because constructs only produce meaning through the interplay of differences inside a "system of distinct signs". This approach to text, in a broad sense, emerges from semiology advanced by Ferdinand de Saussure.
Saussure is considered one of the fathers of structuralism when he explained that terms get their meaning in reciprocal determination with other terms inside language
In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. The idea or phonic substance that a sign contains is of less importance than the other signs that surround it. [...] A linguistic system is a series of differences of sound combined with a series of differences of ideas; but the pairing of a certain number of acoustical signs with as many cuts made from the mass thought engenders a system of values.
Saussure explicitly suggested Linguistic was only a branch of a more general semiology, of a science of signs in general, being human codes only one among others. Nevertheless, in the end, as Derrida pointed out, he made of linguistics "the regulatory model", and "for essential, and essentially metaphysical, reasons had to privilege speech, and everything that links the sign to phone". Derrida will prefer to follow the more "fruitful paths (formalization)" of a general semiotics without falling in what he considered "a hierarchizing teleology" privileging linguistics, and speak of 'mark' rather than of language, not as something restricted to mankind, but as prelinguistic, as the pure possibility of language, working every where there is a relation to something else.
Derrida then sees these differences, as elemental oppositions (0-1), working in all "languages", all "systems of distinct signs", all "codes", where terms don't have an"absolute" meaning, but can only get it from reciprocal determination with the other terms (1-0). This structural difference is the first component that Derrida will take into account when articulating the meaning of différance, a mark he felt the need to create and will become a fundamental tool in his life long work: deconstruction. :
1) Différance is the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other. This spacing is the simultaneously active and passive (the a of différance indicates this indecision as concerns activity and passivity, that which cannot be governed by or distributed between the terms of this opposition) production of the intervals without which the "full" terms would not signify, would not function.
— "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions p.28”
But structural difference will not be considered without him already destabilizing from the start its static, synchronic, taxonomic, ahistoric motifs, remembering that all structure already refers to the generative movement in the play of differences.
The other main component of différance is deferring, that takes into account the fact that meaning is not only a question of synchrony with all the other terms inside a structure, but also of diachrony, with everything that was said and will be said, in History, difference as structure and deferring as genesis:
2) "The a of différance also recalls that spacing is temporization, the detour and postponement by means of which intuition, perception, consummation - in a word, the relationship to the present, the reference to a present reality, to a being - are always deferred. Deferred by virtue of the very principle of difference which holds that an element functions and signifies, takes on or conveys meaning, only by referring to another past or future element in an economy of traces. This economic aspect of différance, which brings into play a certain not conscious calculation in a field of forces, is inseparable from the more narrowly semiotic aspect of différance.
— "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” p.30
This confirms the subject as not present to itself and constituted on becoming space, in temporizing and also, as Saussure said, that "language [which consists only of differences] is not a function of the speaking subject." Questioned this myth of the presence of meaning in itself ("objective") and/or for itself ("subjective") Derrida will start a long deconstruction of all texts where conceptual oppositions are put to work in the actual construction of meaning and values based on the subordination of the movement of "différance":
At the point at which the concept of différance, and the chain attached to it, intervenes, all the conceptual oppositions of metaphysics (signifier/signified; sensible/intelligible; writing/speech; passivity/activity; etc.)- to the extent that they ultimately refer to the presence of something present (for example, in the form of the identity of the subject who is present for all his operations, present beneath every accident or event, self-present in its "living speech," in its enunciations, in the present objects and acts of its language, etc.)- become non pertinent. They all amount, at one moment or another, to a subordination of the movement of différance in favor of the presence of a value or a meaning supposedly antecedent to différance, more original than it, exceeding and governing it in the last analysis. This is still the presence of what we called above the "transcendental signified."
— "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” p.30
But, as Derrida also points out, these relations with other terms don’t express only meaning but also values. The way elemental oppositions are put to work in all texts it's not only a theoretical operation but also a practical option.
The first task of deconstruction, starting with philosophy and afterwards revealing it operating in literary texts, juridical texts, etc., would be to overturn oppositions:
On the one hand, we must traverse a phase of overturning. To do justice to this necessity is to recognize that in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand.
To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment. To overlook this phase of overturning is to forget the conflictual and subordinating structure of opposition.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.42
It’s not that the final task of deconstruction is to surpass all oppositions, because they are structurally necessary to produce sense. They simply cannot be suspended once and for all. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be analyzed and criticized in all their manifestations; showing the way these oppositions, both logical and axiological, are at work in all discourses so that they be able to produce meaning and values.
When I say that this phase is necessary, the word phase is perhaps not the most rigorous one. It is not a question of a chronological phase, a given moment, or a page that one day simply will be turned, in order to go on to other things. The necessity of this phase is structural; it is the necessity of an interminable analysis: the hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself. Unlike those authors whose death does not await their demise, the time for overturning is never a dead letter.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.42 
And it’s not enough to deconstruction to expose the way oppositions work and how meaning and values are produced in speech of all kinds and stop there in a nihilistic or cynic position regarding all meaning, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively". To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new concepts, not to synthesize the terms in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay:
That being said - and on the other hand - to remain in this phase is still to operate on the terrain of and from within the deconstructed system. By means of this double, and precisely stratified, dislodged and dislodging, writing, we must also mark the interval between inversion, which brings low what was high, and the irruptive emergence of a new concept that no longer be, and never could be, included in the previous regime. If this interval, this biface or biphase, can be inscribed only in a bifurcated writing then it can only be marked in what I would call a grouped textual field: in the last analysis it is impossible to point it out, for a unilinear text, or a punctual position, an operation signed by a single author, are all by definition incapable of practicing this interval.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.43
This explains why Derrida always proposes new terms in his deconstruction, not as a free play but as a pure necessity of analysis, to better mark the intervals:
Henceforth, in order better to mark this interval it has been necessary to analyze, to set to work, within the text of the history of philosophy, as well as within the so-called literary text (for example, Mallarme), certain marks, shall we say (I mentioned certain ones just now, there are many others), that by analogy (I underline) I have called undecidables, that is, unities of simulacrum, "false" verbal properties (nominal or semantic) that can no longer be included within philosophical (binary) opposition: but which., however, inhabit philosophical oppositions, resisting and organizing it, without ever constituting a third term, without ever leaving room for a solution in the form of speculative dialectics
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.42
Some examples of these new terms created by Derrida clearly exemplify the deconstruction procedure:
(the pharmakon is neither remedy nor poison, neither good nor evil, neither the inside nor the outside, neither speech nor writing;
the supplement is neither a plus nor a minus, neither an outside nor the complement of an inside, neither accident nor essence, etc.;
the hymen is neither confusion nor distinction, neither identity nor difference, neither consummation nor virginity, neither the veil nor unveiled, neither inside nor the outside, etc.;
the gram is neither a signifier nor a signified, neither a sign nor a thing, neither presence nor an absence, neither a position nor a negation, etc.;
spacing is neither space nor time;
the incision is neither the incised integrity of a beginning, or of a simple cutting into, nor simple secondary.
But his most famous one is perhaps differance, created to deconstruct the opposition between speech and writing
And this holds first of all for a new concept of writing, that simultaneously provokes the overturning of the hierarchy speech/writing, and the entire system attached to it, and releases the dissonance of a writing within speech, thereby disorganizing the entire inherited order and invading the entire field.
Derrida devoted his life work deeply to the deconstruction of most ontological oppositions and its many declensions, not only in philosophy as in human sciences in general, cultural studies, theory of Law, etc. showing how they were dramatized in speeches during the centuries, each author giving it different centres and establishing different hierarchies between the terms in the opposition: the intelligible and the sensible, the spontaneous and the receptive, autonomy and heteronomy, the empirical and the transcendental, immanent and transcendent, as the interior and exterior, or the founded and the founder, normal and abnormal, phonetic and writing, the literal sense and figurative meaning in language, reason and madness in psychoanalysis, the masculine and feminine in gender theory, man and animal in ecology, the beast and the sovereign in the political field, theory and practice as distinct dominions of thought itself.
The chiasmus thus become with deconstruction a larger movement of thought where we have to confront the intended simplicity of the most fundamental cleavages in tradition, realizing the need to think simultaneously, for example, the spontaneous receptivity and receptive spontaneity, the autonomous heteronomy and the heteronomous autonomy, the transcendent immanence and the immanent transcendence, the empirical transcendental and the transcendental empirical (to just illustrated here the pairs of opposites that will serve Kant to delineate the four main metaphysical antinomies)
In the deconstruction procedure, one of the main concerns of Derrida is not to collapse in Hegel´s dialectic where these oppositions would be reduced to contradictions in a dialectic whose telos would, necessarily, be to resolve it into a synthesis, The presence of Hegelianism was enormous in the intellectual life of France during the second half of the 20th century with the influence of Kojève and Hyppolite, but also with the impact of dialectics based on contradiction developed by Marxists, and including the existentialism from Sartre, etc. This explains Derrida´s worry to always distinguish his procedure from Hegel's one.
Neither/nor: that is simultaneously either or; the mark is also the marginal limit, the march, etc.
In fact, I attempt to bring the critical operation to bear against the unceasing reappropriation of this work of the simulacrum by a dialectics of the Hegelian type (which even idealizes and "semantizes" the value of work), for Hegelian idealism consists precisely of a releve of the binary oppositions of classical idealism, a resolution of contradiction into a third term that comes in order to aufheben, to deny while raising up, while idealizing, while sublimating into an anamnesic interiority (Errinnerung), while interning difference in a self-presence.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.42 
This difference from Hegel should be understood as essential from the start, and the Différance being one of the first terms that he tried more accurately to distinguish from all forms of Hegelian difference when proceeding with deconstruction.
Since it is still a question of elucidating the relationship to Hegel - a difficult labor, which for the most part remains before us, and which in a certain way is (interminable, at least if one wishes to execute it rigorously and minutely - I have attempted to distinguish differance (whose a marks, among other things, its productive and conflictual characteristics) from Hegelian difference, and have done so precisely at the point at which Hegel, in the greater Logic, determines difference as contradiction only in order to resolve it, to interiorize it, to lift it up (according to the syllogistic process of speculative dialectics) into the self-presence of an onto- theological or onto-teleological synthesis.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.43 
More than difference is the conflictuality of difference that must be distinguished from contradiction in Hegel to clearly distinguish deconstruction from speculative dialetics:
Difference (at a point of almost absolute proximity to Hegel, everything, that is most decisive, is played out here, in what Husserl called "subtle nuances," or Marx "micrology") must indicate the point at which one breaks with the system of the Aufhebung and with speculative dialectics. Since this conflictuality of differance - which can be called contradiction only if one demarcates it by means of a long work on Hegel's concept of contradiction - can never be totally resolved, it marks its effects in what I call the text in general, in a text which is not reduced to a book or a library, and which can never be governed by a referent in the classical sense, that is, by a thing or by a transcendental signified that would regulate its movement. You can well see that it is not because I wish to appease or reconcile that I prefer to employ the mark "difference" rather than refer to the system of difference- and-contradiction.
— "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” pp.44 
There is one statement by Derrida which he regarded as the axial statement of his whole essay on Rousseau (part of the highly influential Of Grammatology, 1967), and which is perhaps his most quoted and famous statement ever. It's the assertion that "there is nothing outside the text" (il n'y a pas de hors-texte), which means that “there is no such a thing as out-of-the-text”, in other words, "there is nothing outside context".
We can call "context" the entire "real-history-of-the-world," if you like, in which this value of objectivity and, even more broadly, that of truth (etc.) have taken on meaning and imposed themselves. That does not in the slightest discredit them. In the name of what, of which other "truth," moreover, would it?
One of the definitions of what is called deconstruction would be the effort to take this limitless context into account, to pay the sharpest and broadest attention possible to context, and thus to an incessant movement of recontextualization.
The phrase which for some has become a sort of slogan, in general so badly understood, of deconstruction ("there is nothing outside the text" [il n'y a pas de hors-texte]), means nothing else: there is nothing outside context. In this form, which says exactly the same thing, the formula would doubtless have been less shocking. I am not certain that it would have provided more to think about.
Critics of Derrida have countless times quoted it as a slogan to characterize and stigmatize deconstruction. Some commentators have said that it means that is not possible to think outside of the philosophical system, or that there is no experience of reality outside of language.
|“||I take great interest in questions of language and rhetoric, and I think they deserve enormous consideration; but there is a point where the authority of final jurisdiction is neither rhetorical nor linguistic, nor even discursive. The notion of trace or of text is introduced to mark the limits of the linguistic turn. This is one more reason why I prefer to speak of 'mark' rather than of language. In the first place the mark is not anthropological; it is prelinguistic; it is the possibility of language, and it is every where there is a relation to another thing or relation to an other. For such relations, the mark has no need of language.||”|
|“||Contrary to what some people believe or have an interest in making believe, I consider myself very much a historian, very historicist [...] Deconstruction calls for a highly "historian's" attitude (Of Grammatology, for example, is a history book through and through).||”|
Derrida's work centered on challenging unquestioned assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition and also more broadly to Western culture as a whole. By questioning the fundamental norms and premises of the dominant discourses, and trying to modify them, he attempted to democratize the university scene and to politicize it. During the American 1980s culture wars, this would attract the anger of politically conservative and right-wing intellectuals who were trying to defend the status quo.
Derrida called his challenge to the assumptions of Western culture "deconstruction". On some occasions, Derrida referred to deconstruction as a radicalization of a certain spirit of Marxism.
At the very beginning of his philosophical career Derrida was concerned to elaborate a critique of the limits of phenomenology. His first lengthy academic manuscript, written as a dissertation for his diplôme d'études supérieures and submitted in 1954, concerned the work of Edmund Husserl. In 1962 he published Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, which contained his own translation of Husserl's essay. Many elements of Derrida's thought were already present in this work. In the interviews collected in Positions (1972), Derrida said: "In this essay the problematic of writing was already in place as such, bound to the irreducible structure of 'deferral' in its relationships to consciousness, presence, science, history and the history of science, the disappearance or delay of the origin, etc. [...] this essay can be read as the other side (recto or verso, as you wish) of Speech and Phenomena."
Derrida first received major attention outside France with his lecture, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," delivered at Johns Hopkins University in 1966 (and subsequently included in Writing and Difference). The conference at which this paper was delivered was concerned with structuralism, then at the peak of its influence in France, but only beginning to gain attention in the United States. Derrida differed from other participants by his lack of explicit commitment to structuralism, having already been critical of the movement. He praised the accomplishments of structuralism but also maintained reservations about its internal limitations;[page needed] this has led US academics to label his thought as a form of post-structuralism. Near the beginning of the essay, Derrida argued:
(...) the entire history of the concept of structure, before the rupture of which we are speaking, must be thought of as a series of substitutions of centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre. Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the centre receives different forms or names. The history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of these metaphors and metonymies. Its matrix [...] is the determination of Being as presence in all senses of this word. It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, or to the centre have always designated an invariable presence – eidos, archē, telos, energeia, ousia (essence, existence, substance, subject), alētheia, transcendentality, consciousness, God, man, and so forth.
— "Structure, Sign and Play" in Writing and Difference, p. 353.
The effect of Derrida's paper was such that by the time the conference proceedings were published in 1970, the title of the collection had become The Structuralist Controversy. The conference was also where he met Paul de Man, who would be a close friend and source of great controversy, as well as where he first met the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, with whose work Derrida enjoyed a mixed relationship.
In the early 1960s, Derrida began speaking and writing publicly, addressing the most topical debates at the time. One of these was the new and increasingly fashionable movement of Structuralism, which was being widely favoured as the successor to the Phenomenology approach, started by Husserl sixty years earlier. Derrida's countercurrent take on the issue, at a prominent international conference, was so influential that it reframed the discussion from a celebration of the triumph of Structuralism to a "Phenomenology vs Structuralism debate."
Phenomenology, as envisioned by Husserl, is a method of philosophical inquiry that rejects the rationalist bias that has dominated Western thought since Plato in favor of a method of reflective attentiveness that discloses the individual’s “lived experience;” for those with a more phenomenological bent, the goal was to understand experience by comprehending and describing its genesis, the process of its emergence from an origin or event. For the structuralists, this was a false problem, and the "depth" of experience could in fact only be an effect of structures which are not themselves experiential.
In that context, in 1959, 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? In other words, every structural or "synchronic" phenomenon has a history, and the structure cannot be understood without understanding its genesis. 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. This originary complexity must not be understood as an original positing, but more like a default of origin, which Derrida refers to as iterability, inscription, or textuality. It is this thought of originary complexity that sets Derrida's work in motion, and from which all of its terms are derived, including "deconstruction".
Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating the forms and varieties of this originary complexity, and their multiple consequences in many fields. He achieved this by conducting thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, to determine what aspects of those texts run counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis). By demonstrating the aporias and ellipses of thought, Derrida hoped to show the infinitely subtle ways in which this originary complexity, which by definition cannot ever be completely known, works its structuring and destructuring effects.
Derrida's interests traversed disciplinary boundaries, and his knowledge of a wide array of diverse material was reflected in the three collections of work published in 1967: Speech and Phenomena, Of Grammatology and Writing and Difference.
On several occasions Derrida has acknowledged his debt to Husserl and Heidegger, and stated that without them he would have not said a single word. Among the questions asked in these essays are "What is 'meaning', what are its historical relationships to what is purportedly identified under the rubric 'voice' as a value of presence, presence of the object, presence of meaning to consciousness, self-presence in so called living speech and in self-consciousness?" In another essay in Writing and Difference entitled "Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas", the roots of another major theme in Derrida's thought emerges: the Other as opposed to the Same “Deconstructive analysis deprives the present of its prestige and exposes it to something tout autre, "wholly other," beyond what is foreseeable from the present, beyond the horizon of the "same"." Other than Rousseau, Husserl, Heidegger and Lévinas, these three books discussed, and/or relied upon, the works of many philosophers and authors, including linguist Saussure, Hegel, Foucault, Bataille, Descartes, anthropologist Lévi-Strauss, paleontologist Leroi-Gourhan, psychoanalyst Freud, and writers such as Jabès and Artaud.
This collection of three books published in 1967 elaborated Derrida's theoretical framework. Derrida attempts to approach the very heart of the Western intellectual tradition, characterizing this tradition as "a search for a transcendental being that serves as the origin or guarantor of meaning". The attempt to "ground the meaning relations constitutive of the world in an instance that itself lies outside all relationality" was referred to by Heidegger as logocentrism, and Derrida argues that the philosophical enterprise is essentially logocentric, and that this is a paradigm inherited from Judaism and Hellenism. He in turn describes logocentrism as phallocratic, patriarchal and masculinist. Derrida contributed to "the understanding of certain deeply hidden philosophical presuppositions and prejudices in Western culture", arguing that the whole philosophical tradition rests on arbitrary dichotomous categories (such as sacred/profane, signifier/signified, mind/body), and that any text contains implicit hierarchies, "by which an order is imposed on reality and by which a subtle repression is exercised, as these hierarchies exclude, subordinate, and hide the various potential meanings." Derrida refers to his procedure for uncovering and unsettling these dichotomies as deconstruction of Western culture.
In 1968, he published his influential essay "Plato's Pharmacy" in the French journal Tel Quel . This essay was later collected in Dissemination, one of three books published by Derrida in 1972, along with the essay collection Margins of Philosophy and the collection of interviews entitled Positions.
Derrida received increasing attention in the United States after 1972, where he was a regular visiting professor and lecturer at several major American universities. In the 1980s, during the American culture wars, conservatives started a dispute over Derrida's influence and legacy upon American intellectuals, and claimed that he influenced American literary critics and theorists more than academic philosophers.[need quotation to verify]
On March 14, 1987, Derrida presented at the CIPH conference titled "Heidegger: Open Questions" a lecture which was published in October 1987 as Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question. It follows the shifting role of Geist (spirit) through Heidegger's work, noting that, in 1927, "spirit" was one of the philosophical terms that Heidegger set his sights on dismantling. With his Nazi political engagement in 1933, however, Heidegger came out as a champion of the "German Spirit," and only withdrew from an exalting interpretation of the term in 1952. Derrida's book reconnects in a number of respects with his long engagement of Heidegger (such as "The Ends of Man" in Margins of Philosophy and the essays marked under the heading Geschlecht). Derrida reconsiders three other fundamental and recurring elements of Heideggerian philosophy: the distinction between human and animal, technology, and the privilege of questioning as the essence of philosophy.
Of Spirit is an important contribution to the long debate on Heidegger's Nazism and appeared at the same time as the French publication of a book by a previously unknown Chilean writer, Victor Farías, who charged that Heidegger's philosophy amounted to a wholehearted endorsement of the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) faction. Derrida responded to Farías in an interview, "Heidegger, the Philosopher's Hell" and a subsequent article, "Comment donner raison? How to Concede, with Reasons?" He called Farías a weak reader of Heidegger's thought, adding that much of the evidence Farías and his supporters touted as new had long been known within the philosophical community.
Of Spirit was also one of Derrida's first publications on the relationship between philosophy and nationalism, on which he had been teaching in the mid-1980s.
Some have argued that Derrida's work took a "political turn" in the 1990s. Texts cited as evidence of such a turn include Force of Law (1990), as well as Specters of Marx (1994) and Politics of Friendship (1994). Others, however, including Derrida himself, have argued that much of the philosophical work done in his "political turn" can be dated to earlier essays.
Those who argue Derrida engaged in an "ethical turn" refer to works such as The Gift of Death as evidence that he began more directly applying deconstruction to the relationship between ethics and religion. In this work, Derrida interprets passages from the Bible, particularly on Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac, and from Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Derrida's contemporary readings of Emmanuel Lévinas, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Jan Patočka, on themes such as law, justice, responsibility, and friendship, had a significant impact on fields beyond philosophy. Derrida delivered a eulogy at Lévinas' funeral, later published as Adieu à Emmanuel Lévinas, an appreciation and exploration of Levinas's moral philosophy.
In 1991 he published The Other Heading, in which he discussed the concept of identity (cultural identity, European identity, national identity, ..), in the name of which in Europe have been unleashed "the worst violences," "the crimes of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, religious or nationalist fanaticism."
Beginning with "The Deaths of Roland Barthes" in 1981, Derrida produced a series of texts on mourning and memory occasioned by the loss of his friends and colleagues, many of them new engagements with their work. Memoires for Paul de Man, a book-length lecture series presented first at Yale and then at Irvine as Derrida's Wellek Lecture, followed in 1986, with a revision in 1989 that included "Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de Man's War". Ultimately, fourteen essays were collected into The Work of Mourning (2001), which was expanded in the 2003 French edition Chaque fois unique, la fin du monde (literally, The end of the world, unique each time) to include essays dedicated to Gérard Granel and Maurice Blanchot.
In the October 2002, at the theatrical opening of the film Derrida, he said that, in many ways, he felt more and more close to Guy Debord's work, and that this closeness appears in Derrida's texts. Derrida mentioned, in particular, "everything I say about the media, technology, the spectacle, and the 'criticism of the show', so to speak, and the markets – the becoming-a-spectacle of everything, and the exploitation of the spectacle." Among the places in which Derrida mentions the Spectacle, a 1997 interview about the notion of the intellectual.
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Though Derrida addressed the American Philosophical Association at least on one occasion in 1988, and was highly regarded by some contemporary philosophers like Richard Rorty, Alexander Nehamas, and Stanley Cavell, his work has been regarded by other analytic philosophers, such as John Searle and Willard Van Orman Quine, as pseudophilosophy or sophistry.
Some analytic philosophers have in fact claimed, since at least the 1980s, that Derrida's work is "not philosophy." One of the main arguments they gave was alleging that Derrida's influence had not been on US philosophy departments but on literature and other humanities disciplines.
In his 1989 Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty argues that Derrida (especially in his book, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond) purposefully uses words that cannot be defined (e.g. Différance), and uses previously definable words in contexts diverse enough to make understanding impossible, so that the reader will never be able to contextualize Derrida's literary self. Rorty, however, argues that this intentional obfuscation is philosophically grounded. In garbling his message Derrida is attempting to escape the naïve, positive metaphysical projects of his predecessors.
This insistent quarrel (or dispute) was well configured by Umberto Eco when, exposing the example of divergences about the concept of "Denotation" in Stuart Mill and Hjelmslev, concluded that:
the reason for the confusions is not accidental, nor Esperanto full of goodwill will be able to solve it. It is that the semiotic thought presents itself, from the beginning, as always divided by a dilemma and marked by a choice, more or less implicit, that guides the thinker: is it his task when studying languages to know when and how to refer to things properly (problem of truth) or to ask how and when they are used to produce beliefs? Or, downstream of any terminological choice, there is a deeper choice between transparent systems of signification about things or systems of signification as producers of reality. Pathetic confidentiality of this division, the two sides of the fence, when the division is manifested, rate the opponent as idealist (at least in more recent times).
— Umberto Eco, "Signos" in Enciclopédia Einaudi p. 108 
Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt also criticized his work for allegedly misusing scientific terms and concepts in Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science (1998).
Two quarrels (or disputes) in particular went out of academic circles and received international mass media coverage. The 1972–88 quarrel with John Searle, and the analytic philosophers' pressures on Cambridge University to not award Derrida an honorary degree.
A sequence of encounters with analytical philosophy is collected in Limited Inc (1988). In 1972, Derrida wrote "Signature Event Context," an essay on J. L. Austin's speech act theory; following a critique of this text by John Searle in his 1977 essay Reiterating the Differences, Derrida wrote the same year Limited Inc abc ..., a long defense of his earlier argument.
|“||...anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial.||”|
In 1983, Searle told to The New York Review of Books a remark on Derrida allegedly made by Michel Foucault in a private conversation with Searle himself; Derrida later despised Searle's gesture as gossip, and also condemned as violent the use of a mass circulation magazine to fight an academic debate. According to Searle's account, Foucault called Derrida's prose style "terrorist obscurantism"; Searle's quote was:
|“||Michel Foucault once characterized Derrida's prose style to me as "obscurantisme terroriste." The text is written so obscurely that you can't figure out exactly what the thesis is (hence "obscurantisme") and when one criticizes it, the author says, "Vous m'avez mal compris; vous êtes idiot' [roughly, "You misunderstood me; you are an idiot"] (hence "terroriste")||”|
In 1988, Derrida wrote "Afterword: Toward An Ethic of Discussion", to be published with the previous essays in the collection Limited Inc. Commenting this critics in a footnote he questioned:
|“||I just want to raise the question of what precisely a philosopher is doing when, in a newspaper with a large circulation, he finds himself compelled to cite private and unverifiable insults of another philosopher in order to authorize himself to insult in turn and to practice what in French is called un jugement d'autorité, that is, the method and preferred practice of all dogmatism. I do not know whether the fact of citing in French suffices to guarantee the authenticity of a citation when it concerns a private opinion. I do not exclude the possibility that Foucault may have said such things, alas! That is a different question, which would have to be treated separately. But as he is dead, I will not in my turn cite the judgment which, as I have been told by those who were close to him, Foucault is supposed to have made concerning the practice of Searle in this case and on the act that consisted in making this use of an alleged citation.”||”|
In the main text he argued that Searle avoided reading him and didn't try to understand him and even that, perhaps, he was not able to understand, and how certain practices of academic politeness or impoliteness could result in a form of brutality that he disapproved of and would like to disarm, in his fashion.
Much more important in terms of theoretical consequences, Derrida criticized Searle's work for pretending to talk about "intention" without being aware of traditional texts about the subject and without even understanding Husserl's work when talking about it. Because he ignored the tradition he rested blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions.
Derrida would even argue that in a certain way he was more close to Austin, than Searle that, in fact, was more close to continental philosophers that himself tried to criticize. He would also argument about the problem he found in the constant appeal to "normality" in the analytical tradition from which Austin and Searle were only paradigmatic examples.
In the description of the structure called "normal", "normative," "central," "ideal,"this possibility of transgression must be integrated as an essential possibility. The possibility of transgression cannot be treated as though it were a simple accident-marginal or parasitic. It cannot be, and hence ought not to be, and this passage from can to ought reflects the entire difficulty. In the analysis of so-called normal cases, one neither can nor ought, in all theoretical rigor, to exclude the possibility of transgression. Not even provisionally, or out of allegedly methodological considerations. It would be a poor method, since this possibility of transgression tells us immediately and indispensably about the structure of the act said to be normal as well as about the structure of law in general.
— Jacques Derrida, Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. pp. 133</ref>
He continued arguing how problematic it was establishing the relation between "nonfiction or standard discourse" and "fiction", defined as its "parasite, “for part of the most originary essence of the latter is to allow fiction, the simulacrum, parasitism, to take place-and in so doing to "de-essentialize" itself as it were”. He would finally argue that the indispensable question would then become::
what is "nonfiction standard discourse", what must it be and what does this name evoke, once its fictionality or its fictionalization, its transgressive "parasitism", is always possible (and moreover by virtue of the very same words, the same phrases, the same grammar, etc.)?
This question is all the more indispensable since the rules, and even the statements of the rules governing the relations of "nonfiction standard discourse" and its fictional"parasites," are not things found in nature, but laws, symbolic inventions, or conventions, institutions that, in their very normality as well as in their normativity, entail something of the fictional.
— Jacques Derrida, Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. pp. 133 
Derrida has often been the target of attacks by analytic philosophers; an attack of major significance was their 1992 attempt at stopping Cambridge University from granting Derrida an Honorary Doctorate.
For its historical impact through the centuries, Cambridge was widely recognized as the most influential European University, one that "continues to play a very particular role for the university consciousness in the world," Its decision to confer an honorary degree to Derrida was seen as a challenge to the apparent hegemony of the Anglo-American Analytic philosophy over most of the philosophy departments of the Anglophone world.
There were protesters from within Cambridge philosophy faculty, but mostly the letter signatories were from other institutions from the US and UK, a circumstance that some condemned as an attack to the academic freedom of Cambridge scholars. Eighteen protesters from other institutions, including Willard Van Orman Quine, David Armstrong, Ruth Barcan Marcus, and René Thom, sent a letter to Cambridge claiming that Derrida's work "does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor" and describing Derrida's philosophy as being composed of "tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists." The letter concluded that:
|“||"... where coherent assertions are being made at all, these are either false or trivial. Academic status based on what seems to us to be little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university."||”|
In the end the protesters were outnumbered when Cambridge put the motion on a vote. Derrida suggested in an interview that part of the reason for the violent attacks on his work, was that it questioned and modified "the rules of the dominant discourse, it tries to politicize and democratize education and the university scene."
|“||...And let's not go into the argument according to which the influence of a philosophy on other disciplines or more generally outside the profession means that it can't be philosophy! Here are intellectuals who are using the press to put about the idea that philosophy should only influence professional philosophers and should not be open to the judgement of scholars of other disciplines! How many examples could one find of the contrary, to remind them that philosophy, in its best tradition, has never allowed itself to be put under house arrest within the limits of its own discipline, to say nothing of the limits of its profession? Moreover would the authors of this letter to the Times be so worried if the work they denounce really had no influence on professional philosophers?||”|
Interviewed in 1995, Derrida talked about the difficulties of divulgative tasks under limited space and time, when professors and journalists need to explain something difficult without betraying it; Derrida's argument was also a rebuttal of certain charges of obfuscation and obscurantism:
|“||One must teach the reader as well as the student that the difficulty of a discourse is not a sin—nor is it the effect of obscurantism or irrationalism. And that it is often the contrary that is true: obscurantism can invade a language of communication that is seemingly direct, simple, straightforward.||”|
Richard Wolin has argued since 1991 that Derrida's work, as well as that of Derrida's major inspirations (e.g., Bataille, Blanchot, Levinas, Heidegger, Nietzsche), leads to a corrosive nihilism.[page needed] For example, Wolin argues that the "deconstructive gesture of overturning and reinscription ends up by threatening to efface many of the essential differences between Nazism and non-Nazism". In 1991, when Wolin published a Derrida interview on Heidegger in the first edition of The Heidegger Controversy, Derrida argued that the interview was an intentionally malicious mistranslation, which was "demonstrably execrable" and "weak, simplistic, and compulsively aggressive". As French law requires the consent of an author to translations and this consent was not given, Derrida insisted that the interview not appear in any subsequent editions or reprints. Columbia University Press subsequently refused to offer reprints or new editions. Later editions of The Heidegger Controversy by MIT Press also omitted the Derrida interview. The matter achieved public exposure owing to a friendly review of Wolin's book by Thomas Sheehan that appeared in The New York Review of Books, in which Sheehan characterised Derrida's protests as an imposition of censorship. It was followed by an exchange of letters. Derrida in turn responded to Sheehan and Wolin, in "The Work of Intellectuals and the Press (The Bad Example: How the New York Review of Books and Company do Business)," which was published in the book Points....
Twenty-four academics, belonging to different schools and groups – often in disagreement with each other and with deconstruction – signed a letter addressed to The New York Review of Books, in which they expressed their indignation for the magazine's behaviour as well as that of Sheenan and Wolin.
Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg, in 1976 briefly labeled Derrida's 1967 criticism in Cogito and the History of Madness, as "facile, nihilistic objections," without giving further argumentation. In 1991, the dispute with Richard Wolin, which was also conducted and publicized through the mass circulation magazine The New York Review of Books, also included charges of nihilism.
Derrida often said that "his interests lie in provoking not an anti-Enlightenment but a new Enlightenment". To provoke this new Enlightenment, he had to question the axioms and certainties of the Enlightenment itself. However, his critics respond by claiming that Derrida's obfuscating style and nihilistic tendencies cannot adequately provide any ground for a 'New Enlightenment’.
Christopher Wise in his book Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East (2009) places Derrida's work in the historical context of his North African origins, an argument first briefly made by Robert J.C. Young in White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990)[page needed] and extended in his Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001) where Young surveys the writings of numerous theorists and situates the whole framework of Derrida's thinking in relation to the impact of growing up in the colonial conditions of French Algeria.[page needed] In contrast, Wise compares Derrida's thought to precolonial notions of the word that are rooted in ancient Egyptian and African society. Wise argues that Derridean concept of spirit/specter as occult pharmakon is indebted not only to the Hebraic notion of ruah but also the Egyptian heka, Soninke naxamala, Mande nyama, and many other comparable Egypto-African concepts of the word, some that are historically prior to the Hebraic ruah. Wise suggests that Derrida deliberately elides related African concepts of the word in order to accord Judaism a place of special prominence within the history of European philosophy. He argues instead that European philosophy must acknowledge its historical indebtedness to Middle Eastern and African thought, which is not limited to the influence of Judaism alone.
Emir Rodríguez Monegal alleged that many of Derrida's ideas were recycled from the work of Borges (from essays and tales such as "La fruición literaria" (1928), "Elementos de preceptiva" (1933), "Pierre Menard" (1939), "Tlön" (1940), "Kafka y sus precursores" (1951)), opening his article with:
Siempre me ha resultado difícil leer a Derrida. No tanto por la densidad de su pensamiento y el estilo moroso, redundante, repetitivo en que éste aparece desarrollado, sino por una causa completamente circunstancial. Educado en el pensamiento de Borges desde los quince años, muchas de las novedades de Derrida me han parecido algo tautológicas. No podía entender cómo tardaba tanto en llegar a las luminosas perspectivas que Borges había abierto hacía ya tantos años. La famosa "desconstrucción" me impresionaba por su rigor técnico y la infinita seducción de su espejo textual pero me era familiar: la había practicado en Borges avant la lettre.
I have always found Derrida difficult to read. Not so much by the density of the morose, redundant, and repetitive thought and style that he seems to have developed, but for an entirely circumstantial reason. Educated in Borges's thought from the age of fifteen, many of Derrida's novelties struck me as somewhat tautological. I could not understand how it took him so long to capture the bright prospects that Borges had opened so many years ago. The famous "deconstruction" impressed me for its technical precision and the infinite seduction of its textual mirror, but I was familiar with it: it had been practiced in Borges avant la lettre.
Critical obituaries of Derrida were published in The New York Times, The Economist and The Independent. The magazine The Nation responded to the NYT obituary saying that "even though American papers had scorned and trivialized Derrida before, the tone seemed particularly caustic for an obituary of an internationally acclaimed philosopher who had profoundly influenced two generations of American humanities scholars."
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Derrida engaged with many political issues, movements, and debates:
Beyond these explicit political interventions, however, Derrida was engaged in rethinking politics and the political itself, within and beyond philosophy. Derrida insisted that a distinct political undertone had pervaded his texts from the very beginning of his career. Nevertheless, the attempt to understand the political implications of notions of responsibility, reason of state, the other, decision, sovereignty, Europe, friendship, difference, faith, and so on, became much more marked from the early 1990s on. By 2000, theorizing "democracy to come," and thinking the limitations of existing democracies, had become important concerns.
Derrida has sometimes been characterized by the Analytic philosophy tradition as belonging to its 'ancestral antagonist', the Continental philosophy tradition. However, during the Derrida-Searle dispute he wrote:
I sometimes felt, paradoxically, closer to Austin [prominent analytic philosopher] than to a certain Continental tradition from which Searle, on the contrary, has inherited numerous gestures and a logic I try to deconstruct. I now have to add this: it is often because "Searle" ignores this tradition or pretends to take no account of it that he rests blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions, not to mention the deconstructive ones. It is because in appearance at least "I" am more of a historian that "I" am a less passive, more attentive and more "deconstructive" heir of that so-called tradition. And hence, perhaps again paradoxically, more foreign to that tradition. I put quotation marks around "Searle" and "I" to mark that beyond these indexes, I am aiming at tendencies, types, styles, or situations rather than at persons.
Crucial readings in his adolescence were Rousseau's Reveries of a Solitary Walker and Confessions, André Gide's journal, La porte étroite, Les nourritures terrestres and The Immoralist; and the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. The phrase Families, I hate you! in particular, which inspired Derrida as an adolescent, is a famous verse from Gide's Les nourritures terrestres, book IV. In a 1991 interview Derrida commented on a similar verse, also from book IV of the same Gide work: "I hated the homes, the families, all the places where man thinks to find rest" (Je haïssais les foyers, les familles, tous lieux où l'homme pense trouver un repos).
Other influences upon Derrida are Martin Heidegger, Plato, Søren Kierkegaard, Alexandre Kojève, Maurice Blanchot, Antonin Artaud, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Edmund Husserl, Emmanuel Lévinas, Ferdinand de Saussure, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Claude Lévi-Strauss, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Stéphane Mallarmé.
His book, Adieu a Emanuel Levinas, reveals his mentorship by this philosopher and Talmudic scholar who practiced the phenomenological encounter with the Other in the form of the Face, which commanded human response.
Derrida's philosophical friends, allies, and students included Paul de Man, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Sarah Kofman, Hélène Cixous, Bernard Stiegler, Alexander García Düttmann, Joseph Cohen, Geoffrey Bennington, Jean-Luc Marion, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Raphael Zagury-Orly, Jacques Ehrmann, Avital Ronell, Samuel Weber and Catherine Malabou.
Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe were among Derrida's first students in France and went on to become well-known and important philosophers in their own right. Despite their considerable differences of subject, and often also of method, they continued their close interaction with each other and with Derrida, from the early 1970s.
Derrida wrote on both of them, including a long book on Nancy: Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, 2005).
Derrida's most prominent friendship in intellectual life was with Paul de Man, which began with their meeting at Johns Hopkins University and continued until de Man's death in 1983. De Man provided a somewhat different approach to deconstruction, and his readings of literary and philosophical texts were crucial in the training of a generation of readers.
Shortly after de Man's death, Derrida authored a book Memoires: pour Paul de Man and in 1988 wrote an article in the journal Critical Inquiry called "Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de Man's War". The memoir became cause for controversy, because shortly before Derrida published his piece, it had been discovered by the Belgian literary critic Ortwin de Graef that long before his academic career in the US, de Man had written almost two hundred essays in a pro-Nazi newspaper during the German occupation of Belgium, including several that were explicitly antisemitic.
Derrida complicated the notion that it is possible to simply read de Man's later scholarship through the prism of these earlier political essays. Rather, any claims about de Man's work should be understood in relation to the entire body of his scholarship. Critics of Derrida have argued that he minimizes the antisemitic character of de Man's writing. Some critics have found Derrida's treatment of this issue surprising, given that, for example, Derrida also spoke out against antisemitism and, in the 1960s, broke with the Heidegger disciple Jean Beaufret over a phrase of Beaufret's that Derrida (and, after him, Maurice Blanchot) interpreted as antisemitic.
Derrida's criticism of Foucault appears in the essay Cogito and the History of Madness (from Writing and Difference). It was first given as a lecture on March 4, 1963, at a conference at Wahl's Collège philosophique, which Foucault attended, and caused a rift between the two men that was never fully mended.
In an appendix added to the 1972 edition of his History of Madness, Foucault disputed Derrida's interpretation of his work, and accused Derrida of practicing "a historically well-determined little pedagogy [...] which teaches the student that there is nothing outside the text [...]. A pedagogy which inversely gives to the voice of the masters that infinite sovereignty that allows it indefinitely to re-say the text." According to historian Carlo Ginzburg, Foucault may have written The Order of Things (1966) and The Archaeology of Knowledge partly under the stimulus of Derrida's criticism. Carlo Ginzburg briefly labeled Derrida's criticism in Cogito and the History of Madness, as "facile, nihilistic objections," without giving further argumentation.
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Geoffrey Bennington, Avital Ronell and Samuel Weber belong to a group of Derrida translators. Many of these are esteemed thinkers in their own right, with whom Derrida worked in a collaborative arrangement, allowing his prolific output to be translated into English in a timely fashion.
Having started as a student of de Man, Gayatri Spivak took on the translation of Of Grammatology early in her career and has since revised it into a second edition. Alan Bass was responsible for several early translations; Bennington and Peggy Kamuf have continued to produce translations of his work for nearly twenty years. In recent years, a number of translations have appeared by Michael Naas (also a Derrida scholar) and Pascale-Anne Brault.
Bennington, Brault, Kamuf, Naas, Elizabeth Rottenberg, and David Wills are currently engaged in translating Derrida's previously unpublished seminars, which span from 1959 to 2003. The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I, which presents Derrida's seminar from 2001 to 2002, has appeared in English translation; further volumes currently projected for the series include The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II (2002–2003), Death Penalty, Volume I (1999–2000), Death Penalty, Volume II (2000–2001), Perjury and Pardon, Volume I (1997–1998), and Perjury and Pardon, Volume II (1998–1999).
With Bennington, Derrida undertook the challenge published as Jacques Derrida, an arrangement in which Bennington attempted to provide a systematic explication of Derrida's work (called the "Derridabase") using the top two-thirds of every page, while Derrida was given the finished copy of every Bennington chapter and the bottom third of every page in which to show how deconstruction exceeded Bennington's account (this was called the "Circumfession"). Derrida seems to have viewed Bennington in particular as a kind of rabbinical explicator, noting at the end of the "Applied Derrida" conference, held at the University of Luton in 1995 that: "everything has been said and, as usual, Geoff Bennington has said everything before I have even opened my mouth. I have the challenge of trying to be unpredictable after him, which is impossible... so I'll try to pretend to be unpredictable after Geoff. Once again."
Derrida was familiar with the work of Marshall McLuhan, and since his early 1967 writings (Of Grammatology, Speech and Phenomena), he speaks of language as a "medium," of phonetic writing as "the medium of the great metaphysical, scientific, technical, and economic adventure of the West."
He expressed his disagreement with McLuhan in regard to what Derrida called McLuhan's ideology about the end of writing. In a 1982 interview, he said: "I think that there is an ideology in McLuhan's discourse that I don't agree with, because he's an optimist as to the possibility of restoring an oral community which would get rid of the writing machines and so on. I think that's a very traditional myth which goes back to... let's say Plato, Rousseau... And instead of thinking that we are living at the end of writing, I think that in another sense we are living in the extension – the overwhelming extension – of writing. At least in the new sense... I don't mean the alphabetic writing down, but in the new sense of those writing machines that we're using now (e.g. the tape recorder). And this is writing too."
And in his 1972 essay Signature Event Context he said: "As writing, communication, if one insists upon maintaining the word, is not the means of transport of sense, the exchange of intentions and meanings, the discourse and “communication of consciousnesses.” We are not witnessing an end of writing which, to follow McLuhan’s ideological representation, would restore a transparency or immediacy of social relations; but indeed a more and more powerful historical unfolding of a general writing of which the system of speech, consciousness, meaning, presence, truth, etc., would only be an effect, to be analyzed as such. It is this questioned effect that I have elsewhere called logocentrism."
Selected translations of works by Derrida
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I take great interest in questions of language and rhetoric, and I think they deserve enormous consideration; but there is a point where the authority of final jurisdiction is neither rhetorical nor linguistic, nor even discursive. The notion of trace or of text is introduced to mark the limits of the linguistic turn. This is one more reason why I prefer to speak of 'mark' rather than of language. In the first place the mark is not anthropological; it is prelinguistic; it is the possibility of language, and it is every where there is a relation to another thing or relation to an other. For such relations, the mark has no need of language.
Although Saussure recognized the necessity of putting the phonic substance between brackets ("What is essential in language, we shall see, is foreign to the phonic character of the linguistic sign" [po 21]. "In its essence it [the linguistic signifier] is not at all phonic" [po 164]), Saussure, for essential, and essentially metaphysical, reasons had to privilege speech, everything that links the sign to phone. He also speaks of the "natural link" between thought and voice, meaning and sound (p. 46). He even speaks of "thought-sound" (p. 156). I have attempted elsewhere to show what is traditional in such a gesture, and to what necessities it submits. In any event, it winds up contradicting the most interesting critical motive of the Course, making of linguistics the regulatory model, the "pattern" for a general semiology of which it was to be, by all rights and theoretically, only a part. The theme of the arbitrary, thus, is turned away from its most fruitful paths (formalization) toward a hierarchizing teleology: "Thus it can be said that entirely arbitrary signs realize better than any others the ideal of the semiological process; this is why language, the most complex and most widespread of the systems of expression, is also the most characteristic one of them all; in this sense linguistics can become the general pattern for all semiology, even though language is only a particular system" (p. 101). One finds exactly the same gesture and the same concepts in Hegel. The contradiction between these two moments of the Course is also marked by Sausage's recognizing elsewhere that "it is not spoken language that is natural to man, but the faculty of constituting a language, that is, a system of distinct signs ... ," that is, the possibility of the code and of articulation, independent of any substance, for example, phonic substance.
It is also the becoming-space of the spoken chain - which has been called temporal or linear; a becoming-space which makes possible both writing and every correspondence between speech and writing, every passage from one to the other.
The activity or productivity connoted by the a of différance refers to the generative movement in the play of differences. The latter are neither fallen from the sky nor inscribed once and for all in a closed system, a static structure that a synchronic and taxonomic operation could exhaust. Differences are the effects of transformations, and from this vantage the theme of différance is incompatible with the static, synchronic, taxonomic, ahistoric motifs in the concept of structure.
It confirms that the subject, and first of all the conscious and speaking subject, depends upon the system of differences and the movement of différance, that the subject is not present, nor above all present to itself before différance, that the subject is constituted only in being divided from itself, in becoming space, in temporizing, in deferral; and it confirms that, as Saussure said, "language [which consists only of differences] is not a function of the speaking subject."
Therefore one might not proceed too quickly to a neutralization that in practice would leave the previous field untouched, leaving one no hold on the previous opposition, thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively. We know what always have been the practical (particularly political) effects of Immediately jumping beyond oppositions, and of protests in the simple form of neither this nor that.
If there were a definition of differance, it would be precisely the limit, the interruption, the destruction of the Hegelian releve wherever it operates. What is at stake here is enormous. I emphasize the Hegelian Aufhebung, such as it is interpreted by a certain Hegelian discourse, for it goes without saying that the double meaning of Aufhebung could be written otherwise. Whence its proximity to all the operations conducted against Hegel's dialectical speculation.
All these formulations have been possible thanks to the initial distinction between different irreducible types of genesis and structure: worldly genesis and transcendental genesis, empirical structure, eidetic structure, and transcendental structure. To ask oneself the following historico-semantic question: "What does the notion of genesis in general, on whose basis the Husserlian diffraction could come forth and be understood, mean, and what has it always meant? What does the notion of structure in general, on whose basis Husserl operates and operates distinctions between empirical, eidetic, and transcendental dimensions mean, and what has it always meant throughout its displacements? And what is the historico-semantic relationship between genesis and structure in general?" is not only simply to ask a prior linguistic question. It is to ask the question about the unity of the historical ground on whose basis a transcendental reduction is possible and is motivated by itself. It is to ask the question about the unity of the world from which transcendental freedom releases itself, in order to make the origin of this unity appear.
Perhaps something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an "event," if this loaded word did not entail a meaning which it is precisely the function of structural—or structuralist—thought to reduce or to suspect.
Between these two papers is staked Derrida's philosophical ground, if not indeed his step beyond or outside philosophy.
If the alterity of the other is posed, that is, only posed, does it not amount to the same, for example in the form of the "constituted object" or of the "informed product" invested with meaning, etc.? From this point of view, I would even say that the alterity of the other inscribes in this relationship that which in no case can be "posed." Inscription, as I would define it in this respect, is not a simple position: it is rather that by means of which every position is of itself confounded (différance): inscription, mark, text and not only thesis or theme-inscription of the thesis.
On the phrase "default of origin" as applied to Derrida's work, cf., Bernard Stiegler, "Derrida and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith," in Tom Cohen (ed.) Jacques Derrida and the Humanities (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Stiegler understands Derrida's thinking of textuality and inscription in terms of a thinking of originary technicity, and in this context speaks of "the originary default of origin that arche-writing constitutes" (p. 239). See also Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
It is an opening that is structural, or the structurality of an opening. Yet each of these concepts excludes the other. It is thus as little a structure as it is an opening; it is as little static as it is genetic, as little structural as it is historical. It can be understood neither from a genetic nor from a structuralist and taxonomic point of view, nor from a combination of both points of view.
And note that this complexity of the origin is thus not only spatial but temporal, which is why différance is a matter not only of difference but of delay or deferral. One way in which this question is raised in relation to Husserl is thus the question of the possibility of a phenomenology of history, which Derrida raises in Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry: An Introduction (1962).
One of the more persistent misunderstandings that has thus far forestalled a productive debate with Derrida's philosophical thought is the assumption, shared by many philosophers as well as literary critics, that within that thought just anything is possible. Derrida's philosophy is more often than not construed as a license for arbitrary free play in flagrant disregard of all established rules of argumentation, traditional requirements of thought, and ethical standards binding upon the interpretative community. Undoubtedly, some of the works of Derrida may not have been entirely innocent in this respect, and may have contributed, however obliquely, to fostering to some extent that very misconception. But deconstruction which for many has come to designate the content and style of Derrida's thinking, reveals to even a superficial examination, a well-ordered procedure, a step-by-step type of argumentation based on an acute awareness of level-distinctions, a marked thoroughness and regularity. [...] Deconstruction must be understood, we contend, as the attempt to "account," in a certain manner, for a heterogeneous variety or manifold of nonlogical contradictions and discursive equalities of all sorts that continues to haunt and fissure even the successful development of philosophical arguments and their systematic exposition.
beneath an often quite manifest exterior, Searle had read me, or rather avoided reading me and trying to understand. And why, perhaps, he was not able to read me, why this inability was exemplary and symptomatic. And for him lasting, doubtless irreversible, as I have since learned through the press. In a more general way, I wanted to show how certain practices of academic politeness or impoliteness could result in a form of brutality that I disapprove of and would like to disarm, in my fashion. To put it even more generally, and perhaps more essentially, I would have wished to make legible the (philosophical, ethical, political) axiomatics hidden beneath the code of academic discussion.
My frequenting of philosophies and phenomenologies of intentionality, beginning with that of Husserl, has only caused my uncertainty to increase, as well as my distrust of this word or of this figure, I hardly dare to say "concept." And since that time, Searle's book on intentionality (1983) has not helped me, not in the slightest, to dispel these concerns. I did not read it without interest, far from it. I am even ready to admire how the author of a book bearing this title, Intentionality, could choose, as he declares at the very outset, in the Introduction, to "pass over in silence" "whole philosophical movements" which "have been built around theories of intentionality," avowing, as one of his reasons, " ignorance of most of the traditional writings on Intentionality" (p. ix) . Something that is indeed evident in reading the seven lines devoted to Husserl in this book of three hundred pages.
I now have to add this: it is often because "Searle" ignores this tradition or pretends to take no account of it that he rests blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions, not to mention the deconstructive ones. It is because in appearance at least "I" am more of a historian that I am a less passive, more attentive and more "deconstructive" heir of that so-called tradition. And hence, perhaps again paradoxically, more foreign to that tradition. I put quotation marks around "Searle" and I to mark that beyond these index¬ es, I am aiming at tendencies, types, styles, or situations rather than at persons.
Searle had written, "It would be a mistake, I think, to regard Derrida's discussion of Austin as a confrontation between two prominent philosophical traditions." I agree with the letter if not with the intention of this declaration, having made it clear that I sometimes felt, paradoxically, closer to Austin than to a certain Continental tradition from which Searle, on the contrary, has inherited numerous gestures and a logic I try to deconstruct.
That is one theoretical consequence or implication that I wanted first of all to recall to Searle, and its effects on his entire discourse are, I believe, non delimitable. In the description of the structure called "normal," "normative," "central," "ideal", this possibility must be integrated as an essential possibility.
The possibility cannot be treated as though it were a simple accident-marginal or parasitic. It cannot be, and hence ought not to be, and this passage from can to ought reflects the entire difficulty. In the analysis of so-called normal cases, one neither can nor ought, in all theoretical rigor, to exclude the possibility of transgression. Not even provisionally, or out of allegedly methodological considerations. It would be a poor method, since this possibility of transgression tells us immediately and indispensably about the structure of the act said to be normal as well as about the structure of law in general.
I will not repeat my objection to the order of "logical dependency" invoked by Searle concerning the relation between "nonfiction or standard discourse" and "fiction," defined as its "parasite." But I recall this example here apropos of your question. One cannot subordinate or leave in abeyance the analysis of fiction in order to proceed firstly and "logically" to that of "nonfiction or standard discourse". For part of the most originary essence of the latter is to allow fiction, the simulacrum, parasitism, to take place-and in so doing to "de-essentialize" itself as it were.
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