Theses on Jacques Derrida

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Troppo has been filled with sometimes fairly arcane discussion about the merits or otherwise of postmodernism in recent days, sparked off by the Sawyer Affair (there are multiple posts but follow the links from the most recent one). I don’t want to revisit the questions of English in schools, culture wars, and the politics of education, important as they are, as they’re still being discussed but I do want to underline the fact that “deconstruction” (if there is such a thing) is copping criticism which is more a product of the mythology and the (initially) academic politics surrounding the reception of Jacques Derrida’s work than any of the evils of which it’s accused (and it’s amazing the language and the rhetoric the mention of deconstruction conjures up). Rafe Champion urged me to summarise Derrida’s work and his contribution to philosophy, a task which is probably in principle endless, particularly since it was Derrida himself who put in question the unity of the oeuvre of an author. Derrida’s work on the signature underlined the fact that every text has a context, an implied readership, and a time and a place of enunciation. Nevertheless, informed writers have often commented on the amazing consistency in Derrida’s work as it tracked a multitude of paths from phenomenology at the outset to ethics and politics at the end.

But why all the controversy?

NOTE: Picture sourced from the Rene Wellek library at UC Irvine.

What I would like to do, in a necessarily schematic way, is highlight some of the reasons why Derrida’s philosophy attracts so much controversy, and also briefly reiterate my discussion of the appropriation of his work in North American literary theory. The latter can be treated first. Derrida worked in a philosophical context denoted both by extreme rigour in the study of previous philosophers (through the method of explication du texte) and in conscious relation not just to the phenomenological philosophy of Husserl – the subject of his dissertation – but also in relation to the whole corpus of the philosophical canon. His appropriation in Departments of Literature, after the 1966 colloquium at Johns Hopkins University, was very much influenced both by the vogue for “theory” in literary studies in the 1970s and by factors such as the order in which his books were translated, and the first prominent interpretations by scholars such as Paul de Man, Fredric Jameson, and Gayatri Spivak. Rudolphe Gasche is only one writer who argued for Derrida to be understood primarily as a philosopher. As Geoff Bennington points out, this in itself is to reinscribe a division which Derrida himself questioned, but it remains true that it is unfair to judge Derrida’s work on the basis of Yale deconstructionism in literary studies. Derrida also disclaimed any intention of founding a school, and claimed repeatedly that deconstruction is neither a method nor a theory but rather a process which takes place within texts. The best source for an understanding of the appropriation and reception of his work (and its polemical critics) is Herman Rapaport’s accessible and lively The Theory Mess.

Derrida became a flashpoint for controversies over the allegedly baleful influence of postmodernism and post-structuralism on the Humanities. This is an immensely complex sociological story, which remains to be written in its entirety, but a number of factors can be isolated. First, the politicisation of the student bodies and Faculties of Western universities in the wake of the 68 events. Secondly, the linguistic turn in philosophy generally which undermined certainties and placed accepted concepts of rationality and truth under question. Thirdly, the culture wars in the United States (and now Australia) which attempted (among other goals) to shore up a sort of traditionalist and nationalist politics on campus in the wake of the challenges of identity politics and the perceived fragmentation of a common culture.

It’s also necessary to observe that Derrida did not understand himself as a postmodernist. As I argued on the previous thread, a great source of frustration to those who’ve read and applied his work is the conflations and elisions to which it is subjected, as well as a trend nicely put in The Times‘ obituary of Derrida:

The initial reception in both the UK and the US was marked either by outright hostility ¢â¬â Derrida was characterised as an obscurantist charlatan ¢â¬â or by an attempt to extract from his writings certain repeatable practices, thereby producing a theory of analysis from his work, and it is this process that has come to be termed “deconstruction”.

It’s the latter process – basically a search for a method in a field (literary studies) driven by the theory vogue but also by a search for philosophical and methodological validity which is in itself a function both of disputes over literary value internal to literary studies but also to its eclipse in prestige within the University by more rigorous social sciences – which is usually termed “deconstruction”. In fact, Derrida’s texts, though he has a common way of proceeding, do not isolate particular theses or figures within an author but rather contextualise an author and read the text as a whole paying minute attention to its own inner workings and particular the contradictions and aporias hidden and only exposed at its margins. Derrida often wrote in such away almost to insert himself into the text he was discussing as a ghost in the machine, which is also a source of confusion to interpreters, but which had a point – Derrida’s style of writing (often described as difficult) is in itself performative – that is to say the point is made by the manner of exposition as well as the argument. Derrida argues this is the case in all philosophical texts, but that he’s being upfront and self-reflexive about it. There is a growing dialogue between Derrida and analytical philosophy, exemplified in Wheeler’s book Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy, and philosophers like Wheeler have reinscribed Derrida’s arguments as syllogisms, and noted his closeness to philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Quine and Davidson.

Derrida’s work on the privileging of the voice (initially through an analysis of Husserlian phenomenology) and later – in Writing and Difference – in relation to the Western philosophical canon as a whole can be understood as a hermeneutic which seeks to unveil the conceptual and metaphysical foundations of philosophy. In particular, Derrida is sceptical of the notion of presence to oneself, which has implications for the philosophy of communication. In an analysis of the English analytical philosopher J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words, Derrida criticised the notion that language could easily be circumscribed to a self-evident meaning by troubling the distinction between performative and constative statements. Later, vigorously attacked by John Searle, who saw himself as Austin’s heir in the development of Speech Act Theory, Derrida further developed his understanding of language as marked by iterability. That is to say, statements are not separable from their contexts, and are not just cited but rather iterated – that is to say, any sentence or concept inscribes itself differently with each utterance or inscription. All this is taken by Derrida’s critics for an attack on truth itself, referentiality and the stability of interpretative contexts.

Derrida himself wrote, in Limited Inc., his reply to Searle:

I have never ‘put such concepts as truth, reference and the stability of interpretive contexts radically into question’ if ‘putting radically into question’ means contesting that there are and that there should be truth, reference and stable contexts of interpretation.

So much of the angst surrounding Derrida’s work comes from a fear that he destabilises and unfixes truth and meaning. Much of this is also associated with a notion that he promotes indeterminacy in textual meaning. Derrida in fact does not so much dismiss the philosophical notion of intention (a slightly different thing from the literary notion of the intention of an author) but rather questions its logic – all our thoughts are not necessarily conscious and we can never be wholly present to ourselves. In this, Derrida is also influenced by psychoanalysis, a discourse which he seems alternatively to love and question. But he’s also making the point that texts write themselves in a sense – given that all we have are the common stock of language and that all our use of language is an echo of other prior uses – this also helps us understand what he means by iterability. But it’s crucial to note that Derrida has been very careful to point out that he never uses the term “indeterminacy”. Rather, he talks of undecideability, which I once defined as “determinate oscillation between two poles”. Let me see if I can tease that out.

Derrida often talks about how Western thought is essentially binary. We posit a series of oppositions – strong and weak, political and social, male and female, guilt and innocence and so on. Within any of these paired concepts, one is defined in terms of the other – paradoxically often the more devalued and weaker term. Thus, we can only really talk about what politics is by marking it off from the social or the private – as the endless attempts to seek the essence of the political which really make up the subject matter of political theory demonstrate. So A is defined by not A, not through any positivity, and it’s locked in a vicelike grip with A, stretched out along a tense wire, and the two terms bleed into each other once we try and mark out their boundary. What we need to do, he argues, is reverse the terms and seek the excluded third. There’s a sense here in which Derrida is also arguing against the Hegelian dialectic, which its aficionados may pick up. The classic demonstration of this “deconstruction” – which is already at work in our thought – Derrida really just points out what’s going on – is the privileging of the spoken word over the written which he first discusses in Writing and Difference and then later – through the figures of Plato and Socrates in The Post Card, which is a sort of epistolary novel in form, and incidentally, a bit of a racy read.

Now it’s fairly clear that this manner of thinking, and reading and criticising scrupulously has political implications. You can think about how the example I’ve given above – which is key to the theory of political liberalism – works in relation to the deconstruction of the political and the private. I’d actually like to talk more about Derrida and politics, a subject I’ve done some work on in my thesis and a number of papers, and which I referred to shortly after his sad death last year, but as I noted at the outset, this post is in principle endless and could be a thesis in and of itself, and I don’t want to try your patience. I’d also like to discuss Derrida’s work on ethics, which I find extroardinarily convincing. Tim Dunlop noted in the thread on “Truth, Lies and Postmodernism” that many accuse postmodernism of nihilism or quietism, and Derrida’s work on hospitality, on Europe, on the politics of friendship, on forgiveness and remembering, on the gift and exchange, in law and on justice and the foundation of states and their constitutions, on refugees, and on globalisation (which he preferred to call the Latinisation of the world), and on the politics of religion and the Abrahamic faiths – a marvellous variety of interlinked work dating from the late 1980s – belies both his characterisation as postmodern and his characterisation as nihilist. Derrida saw himself – in dialogue with an opponent of earlier times – Juergen Habermas – as within the tradition of the Enlightenment.

But I must hasten towards my end, even as I feel I haven’t begun. I had planned to write eleven theses on Derrida to answer Rafe’s question about his philosophical significance. But I find myself unable to. His thought seems to actively resist a quick summary, as The Times again notes well:

It is, however, impossible to offer a summary because, despite the views put forward in encyclopaedias, textbooks on literary theory, and in many classrooms, Derrida neither articulated nor proposed a single theory or philosophical position, even though he has formulated certain radical notions, such as “diff©rance” and “iterability”. Rather, what can be said of his work is that each publication is a singular demonstration of a patient response to the contours, rhythms and turns of the subject being addressed.

Instead I want to return to the question of the resistance and outrage his thought has inspired. It’s significant to note – and there’s a parallel – that just at the time that the culture war was getting off the ground in the US, a determined attempt was made to destroy the deconstructionists. This was assisted by the revelations that Paul de Man, a friend of Derrida’s, had written anti-Semitic articles for a Belgian newspaper during the Second World War. This was used to imply that deconstruction was marred with the brush of fascism, a suspicion enhanced by its debt to Heidegger. Ironically, Derrida himself had often been attacked by the Marxist Left, and by other Left thinkers such as Habermas, for conservatism. It’s very clear that Derrida’s politics were Left in a fairly traditional French way, and Derrida himself was Jewish, born in Algeria, and his family suffered under the Vichy regime. Derrida thought of himself as a Marrano and his unstable relation as a child and a young man to language, to place, and to national and personal identity no doubt marked his thought deeply. This topic – Derrida as a Marrano – is one I’d like to have the time someday to write on in conjunction with his thought on Judaism and the other Abrahamic faiths, as well as his thought on the inheritance of Latinity. Derrida was deeply distressed about the posthumous revelations about his friend, which he had not known about while de Man was alive, and wrote interestingly on this question in a piece called “Like the Sound of the Sea Deep within a Shell: Paul de Man’s War”, later included in his book Memoires for Paul de Man.

Derrida was subjected to unjustified abuse over this, and hyperbolic and untrue claims that he had justified de Man’s actions. All he in fact argued was that we needed to understand them, but we all know (from the Iraq War as a recent example) where that leads in the polemic of the new inquisitors, the politically correct warriors of the Right. Ironically, at around the same time, deconstruction within literary theory in North America came under attack from the forces of identity politics (the real targets of the cultural warriors) for privileging the Western philosophical canon. Theory was proclaimed dead in the study of English, which quickly reinvented itself as Cultural Studies or Media Studies and seemed to lose interest in philosophical questions and indeed in literary texts in favour of what Rapaport rather dismissively calls “social studies”.

Thus, the supreme irony of this discussion, which I think would have amused Derrida. The deconstructionists spend all their time commenting on Dead White Males, the philosophical canon (from Plato through Kant through Heidegger), and literary icons like Baudelaire, Mallarme, Shakespeare and Poe. The cultural warriors attack deconstructionists for destroying truth and literature and beauty while deconstruction is actually targetted for being far too close to the writers who are held to exemplify these concepts.

The other matter I’d like to comment on briefly, is how beautiful Derrida’s obituaries and thoughts on death are. This text, pronounced at the grave of Gilles Deleuze, another philosopher who saw himself in a very traditional way as a creator of concepts, is very moving, and could I think have been said of Derrida himself:

Too much to say, and I don’t have the heart for it today. There is too much to say about what has happened to us here, about what has also happened to me, with the death of Gilles Deleuze, with a death we no doubt feared (knowing him to be so ill), but still, with this death here (cette mort-ci), this unimaginable image, in the event, would deepen still further, if that were possible, the infinite sorrow of another event.

As Derrida titled this apostrophe to Deleuze, Now I’ll have to wander all alone. Derrida’s thoughts on mourning, death and friendship, collected in the recent volume The Work of Mourning are in themselves testament to the contribution he has made, for which I at least will forever be in his debt.

I was going to offer some reading suggestions in the secondary literature (though I always argue people should plunge into the works themselves), but I’m too tired now. This post has taken an hour and a half to write, and it’s after midnight. So I’ll content myself by referring readers to a brief interview with Derrida about love, and to two good links pages at The Voice of the Shuttle and Popcultures.com.

But I’d really like you to read The Times obituary, which offers an excellent overview of his life, work and thought. I’m only sorry I lack the time to write more, and to write more clearly about Derrida’s contribution. I won’t be at home much tomorrow or tomorrow night, so you’ll understand if I stay out of the comments box. I’ll leave JD with the last word, which is pretty relevant in the context of this text that I am at this moment writing:

This love means an affirmative desire towards the Other – to respect the Other, to pay attention to the Other, not to destroy the otherness of the Other – and this is the preliminary affirmation, even if afterwards because of this love, you ask questions. There is some negativity in deconstruction. I wouldn’t deny this. You have to criticise, to ask questions, to challenge and sometimes to oppose. What I have said is that in the final instance, deconstruction is not negative although negativity is no doubt at work. Now, in order to criticise, to negate, to deny, you have first to say “yes”. When you address the Other, even if it is to oppose the Other, you make a sort of promise – that is, to address the Other as Other, not to reduce the otherness of the Other, and to take into account the singularity of the Other. That’s an irreducible affirmation, its the original ethics if you want. So from that point of view, there is an ethics of deconstruction. Not in the usual sense, but there is an affirmation. You know, I often use a quote from Rosensweig or even from Levinas which says that the “yes” is not a word like others, that even if you do not pronounce the word, there is a “yes” implicit in every language, even if you multiply the “no”, there is a “yes”. And this is even the case with Heidegger. You know Heidegger, for a long time, for years and years kept saying that thinking started with questioning, that questioning (fragen) is the dignity of thinking. And then one day, without contradicting this statement, he said “yes, but there is something even more originary than questioning, than this piety of thinking,” and it is what he called zusage which means to acquiesce, to accept, to say “yes”, to affirm. So this zusage is not only prior to questioning, but it is supposed by any questioning. To ask a question, you must first tell the Other that I am speaking to you. Even to oppose or challenge the Other, you must say “at least I speak to you”, “I say yes to our being in common together”. So this is what I meant by love, this reaffirmation of the affirmation.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

naughty, naughty Mark.
never mind the theses of derrida, you’ve been writing a lot lately. what about your thesis?

and rafe, shame on you, are you trying to ruin the poor man by setting him this impossible task when he’s got enough to worry about?:)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

At least it’s on topic for the thesis, Jason!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Jason, I’ve actually taken the week off. As I mentioned before, I felt the need for a working space with no distractions, so I’ve hired an airconditioned office without internet access at Toowong to finish the thing in. Unfortunately, it also seems that I’ve got some health issues arising from a problem last year which necessitated surgery, and I had to make time for ultrasounds, blood tests etc. I’ve also recently broken up with my girlfriend and I need a bit of space to deal with that.

Anyway, I take up residence in the new digs on Monday so you can expect to see a lot less of me after that for a bit.

This has been helpful actually – got me thinking about Derrida and I’ll need to write some more on him for the PhD soonish.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Well thankyou Mark and everyone else who has written anything since the Sawyer article. I think a disciplined and trained mind might be worth working toward as I approach my old age. It would seem the morass of post-modern theory I waded through in varying states of semi-conscious many years ago has not altogether left me. To be sure I can’t remember who said what, but these latest threads contain some things that feel very familiar. And worse/better, even make sense in a deja vu kind of way.
So I’m thinking, in view of the secondary school curriculum statements that underpin the way I should be approaching my students learning, it might be my duty to be clear about my position within a post-structuralist context. This will involve an effort on my part, as intellectually rigorous I am not. But sheesh!
How dare I (or anyone else) teach to a document I have not deconstructed! (half irony there) (smart arsery really) opposite of intellectual rigour….. dribble now. ‘night all.

Rafe
2022 years ago

Thanks to Mark for staying up late to go in to bat for Derrida. For me, Rene Wellek remains the gold standard in literary scholarship, he is philosophically sophisticated, he writes clearly and he talks directly about literary texts, which if course Derrida never claimed or attempted to do. I have put his thoughts on deconstruction on line in Catallaxy, along with an extended summary of an excellent Australian book on literary theory.

Taking up one point.

“Derrida often talks about how Western thought is essentially binary. We posit a series of oppositions – strong and weak, political and social, male and female, guilt and innocence and so on. Within any of these paired concepts, one is defined in terms of the other – paradoxically often the more devalued and weaker term.”

This is an example of Derrida making a mountain out of a molehill and attempting to impress people that he has made a great philosophical breakthrough when he is just talking virtual gibberish. There is a strand of thought which sets up a series of dichotomies and then makes a big deal out of them. I have criticised that line of thought myself because it contributes to the error of “essentialism”, the error of making too much out of definitions and conceptual distinctions instead of focussing on problems and their possible solutions. So there is nothing deep or significant about Derrida’s talk about binary oppositions. Sorry.
Take guilt and innocence. We define guilt and innocence in terms of the relationship of an act to a law or a convention. We attempt to establish what law has been broken and whether the person actually did something that violated the law. This may be difficult to establish for many reasons, none of them illuminated by ruminations on the binary nature of western thought. That is just one example of a half truth promoted to the level of produndity with the aid of a lot of confusing and tortured verbiage
The simple, commonsense approach will generally deflate Derrida’s bubble, except that you will be told that you do not understand.
Generally speaking, if you cannot understand a writer, blame him or her, not yourself. Profund writing may be difficult but not all difficult writing is profound.
Instead of piling up conceptual distinctions, how about adopting a problem-oriented approach for clarity of exposition. Spell out the problem, specify some of the possible solutions, review the contributions that other people have made and look for evidence or arguments for and against the various theories or policies that are on offer.
First up, what are the problems that Derrida addressed? Did he ever say clearly what they are? Please don’t give me the binary nature of Western thought:)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Rafe, what you have suggested is an appropriate structure for a journal article or a dissertation in the social sciences but not really the way any work of continental philosophy proceeds. Just because something comes from another research tradition or intellectual milieu it doesn’t invalidate it. Name me one great philosopher who proceeded in the manner you suggest, and I’ll name you two who didn’t.

I suspect that if I were to attempt to specify the “problems” that Derrida addressed, I’d just be told that they were non-problems. But for the nonce, in “Signature, Event, Context” he addressed the problem of the purported transparency of communication.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

I’m lost. It’s the confations and elesians that did it.

Why don’t you get to the nub? Did he write good sex scenes?

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Rex, for sex scenes, you want ‘The Post Card’ and ‘Circumfession’.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Is it not part of French national culture to send the most towering of philosophical skyrockets into the air, just as it is customary for Australians to fall about calling the very same a total wank? It’s warming in these troubled times to see that at least some things are as per nationally normal.

Cool looking dude, btw – sort of an amalgam of Chifley, Whitlam and Hawkie.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

what rafe is expressing is the divide between the empirically-oriented/samuel johnson-kick-that-stone-see it’s real Anglo Saxon philosophical tradition vs the more nominalist/rationalist continental tradition

Rafe
2022 years ago

Yes Jason, but it is not the foundational kind of empiricism that bogged down in the problem of induction and the attempt to purge philosophy of metaphysical contamination.
It is better described as critical rationalism, with equal respect for the testable findings of science (on the IS side of the is/ought divide) and the role of non-testable statements (morals, metaphyiscs, methodology, aesthetics)on the other side of the divide, which can neverthless be subjected to critical appraisal with the hope of improvement.

Rafe
2022 years ago

Mark, on the topic of working on problems, Alan Chalmers told a story about his early days in Sydney when he first turned up to lecture in the history and philosophy of science. He came from London under the influence of the Popperian idea of working on problems. For a short time (he was a fast learner) he would politely ask people in social gatherings “What is your problem?”.

He meant “What is the complex of theories, presuppositions and problematics which exercises your mind and justifies your role as a scholar and the existence of this incredibly expensive heap of stonework at the rise of the hill on Broadway?”

They heard “I get the impression that you are a boring and neurotic person, presumably suffering some form of mental affliction. What do you think would be the psychiatric classification of your condition if you only had enough self-awareness and good sense to seek professional assistance?”

Rafe
2022 years ago

PS. Mark, what’s your problem:)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Good story, Rafe.

Don’t get me wrong by the way. I’m full of respect for the sort of research approach you suggest and I use it myself. I’ve just been rereading Derrida and remembering his ability to sharpen the definition of a phenomenon (in this case the nation state) with reference to the limits of the concept and to elegantly suggest what political implications might flow – in this case the difficulty of reconciling a cosmopolitan rights based regime of international law with a state defined by its national identity and the concept of citizenship which in turn depends on sovereignty.

I won’t do a running commentary on my reading though – better get back to it!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

see http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008401.html#038100 Rafe!

btw – it’s just occurred to me that a necessary contribution of philosophy is to clarify concepts and relationships between them so more empirically minded researchers can get on with it – every research methodology (including quantitative methods) recognises that variables for instance are constructs and there’s no unproblematic relation between the “real world” and the way we study it.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

That Derrida essay might make a productive topic for a blog post as well, given current debates about pre-emption, the role and limitations of the UN, and the possible limits of national sovereignty in an age of international terrorism and potential “rogue states” who might arm them, not to mention fairly frequent outbreaks of genocide that national governments aren’t able/willing to control (the latest instance of which is the Darfur region of Sudan). But don’t distract yourself from your thesis to do it.

Rafe
2022 years ago

PS. Mark, what’s your problem?:)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Good idea, Ken. That’s actually an issue which is relevant to my thesis – why I’m reading it. But I’ll see how I go. Really must disappear now.

Rafe, blogging seems to be my problem :)

Niall
Niall
2022 years ago

Precisely Mark! Why all the controversy? Surely you’d have been much better served, as would we all, by asking ‘Does anyone really care?’

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Rafe’s story highlights wonderfully “the problem of the purported transparency of communication.”

From earlier in the thread “Derrida often talks about how Western thought is essentially binary. We posit a series of oppositions – strong and weak, political and social, male and female, guilt and innocence and so on.” Why only Western thought? I presume Derrida was aware of yin and yang.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yes, Alex, I assume so too, but he really only worked in European philosophy. There have been a lot of articles however in journals by Chinese philosophers and other experts in Chinese thought comparing Taoism with Deconstruction – some of which I read years ago and I remember them as being very interesting.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Alex, the yin and the yang are held in equal balance, with the focus on the whole. In Western thought one side of the binary is preferred, or ‘privileged’ as they say, while the other is marginalised or derogated.

I’m not an expert, but that’s just a stab.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

And sometimes the distinction is invalid or distorting. Try mind and body.

Glen Fuller
2022 years ago

has anyone seen the doco on derrida, titled “Derrida”? I bought it thru amazon.com, watched about 5 minutes and the beginning was really cool (cool music), then trod on the bloody disk later that night snapping it in two. I was wondering if anyone had seen the whole thing? And what they thought of it?

Rafe
2022 years ago

Now we are in trouble, the Bahnisch family is ganging up on us!

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

No, Rafe, just gently nudging you towards the light!

Tex
Tex
2022 years ago

informed writers have often commented on the amazing consistency in Derrida’s work

Yes, it was consistently dreadful and pointless.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I take it you’ve read Derrida, Tex? Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us with which books you found particularly pointless – given that to make an assessment such as yours you’ve presumably mastered his whole corpus?

Tex
Tex
2022 years ago

Yes Mark, even those of us who don’t enjoy reading & discussing Really Important Books have actually read a few of them.

I endured Derrida during my long, dull spell of Continental philosophy at the ANU.

I confess, “of Grammatology” and “speech and phenomena” were my only full experiences in Derrida’s own glorious words. But from the essays and analysis I’ve seen of his late works, I doubt his ideas or prose improved much.

Other than having the writing ability of a dyslexic chimp, Derrida’s ideas seemed to have the same problems of heidegger’s: even if he’s right, so what?

Pure logical enquiry is limited by the crude external resources of language. Hey great, I’m sure *noone* else could have figured that out…..

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Ok, Tex, fair enough – since so many people attack Derrida without reading him, I just wanted to check.

I don’t think that the way you characterise his thesis is correct, but I’ll let that go, since we’re unlikely to persuade each other and I’ve given my interpretation in the post.

Timothy Takemoto
14 years ago

I am looking for a quote in Limited Inc (I do not have a copy to hand).

In limited Inc Derrida says somewhere (where???) and quite persuasively I thought something like “one can not communicate something to oneself”, “one can only write a memo to oneself but that is about it”.

Does anyone know where?