Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction: Part 3b: Derrida on Deconstruction


Some of this information may be a repeat of yesterday’s post. However, my intention is not so much to you you new information as it is to give more detailed information.

Derrida was determined to fight the oppositional tendencies that can be found within the Western philosophical tradition. He used dualisms as a major component of deconstruction in order to combat a lot of the oppositionalism. As far as Derrida was concerned, without the hierarchies within Western philosophy, deconstruction would be left with nowhere to intervene. Deconstruction has been called parasitic, because, rather than developing an argument in itself, it simply distorts already existing narratives, thus revealing the dualistic hierarchies they conceal. Personally, I do not believe that dualism is necessary. Deconstruction may not be able to survive without the dualism, but, if that is the case, then Deconstruction is simply a non-factor. However, the oppositional tendancies are what creats the dualism, and I believe that they are necessary. Philosophy is not about finding the objective truth. In fact, that is not possible in many forms of philosophy. Instead, philosophy is about finding possible truths. Some of these truths are more likely than others, and some can lead to the discovery of objective truths. But philosophy’s value is in the fact that it has all of these different dialogues with different people debating different truths with varying degrees of success. When it comes to morality and knowledge, this kind of dialogue helps us find better ways of defending our positions, and it also allows us to see where our logic has failed us and throw out those bad arguments. So I believe that the oppositions and the hierarchies are both necessary in philosophy.
Deconstruction has been called the philosophy that says nothing. It has been suggested that Derrida’s concerns were purely philosophical, as opposed to ontological (the philosophical study of the nature of being). Early Deconstruction functioned through the engagement of prolonged analyses of particular texts. Later Deconstruction functioned through this process as well, but not to the same extent. Deconstruction relies on the commitment to the rigorous analysis of the literal meaning of a text. This means finding the authors intent. Finding your preferred interpretation is not good enough according to Deconstruction. However, Deconstruction is also concerned with finding internal problems that suggest alternative meanings. So preferred interpretations are acceptable, so long as you can defend them in relation to the literal meaning (or show how you take your preferred interpretation to be the literal meaning). As such, Deconstruction must determine a methodology that notices and focuses on these apparent contradictions within the text.

According to Derrida, that deconstructive strategy is akin to a fidelity and a “desire to be faithful to the themes and audacities of a thinking.” However, deconstruction did also borrow Heidegger’s conception of a ‘destructive retrieve’ as Derrida sought to make it acceptable to open texts up to alternative meanings. Derrida encouraged people to “invent in your own language if you can or want to hear mine; invent if you can or want to give my language to be understood.” Derrida is suggesting that invention is a vitally important part of any deconstructive reading. While Derrida’s own interpretations of certain texts are considered to be quite radical, it is difficult to figure out where his explanation of a text ends and where the more radical, or destructive, aspect of deconstruction actually begins. Derrida was reluctant to differentiate between various readings of a text (ie. This is my reading, this is so-and-so’s reading) because he didn’t want them to be too conspicuously in his texts. I his mind, it is problematic to so much as speak of a ‘work’ of deconstruction, since deconstruction focuses on what has already been revealed within the text. It must be recognised that Derrida’s arguments are always intertwined with the arguments of the writer whose work he intends to deconstruct. This is why Derrida has argued that his work belongs in the margins of philosophy, rather than simply being philosophy in itself.

According to Deconstruction, all texts inevitably contain points of indecision, which betray any concrete meaning that the author may impose upon their text. For this reason, Derrida’s philosophy is inevitably textually based. Because, depending upon what is to be deconstructed, that point of indecision will be found in different locations. This is why it id difficult to describe what deconstruction is. But it is possible to describe certain defining features of deconstruction. For one, Derrida’s philosophy is based on the conviction that dualisms are undeniably present in the works of all philosophers and artisans. One of the objections to Derrida’s philosophy is that he is reductive, at least when he discusses Western philosophical tradition. Reduction is the idea that something can be reduced down to one thing. For example, many philosophers argue that all of science can be reduced down to physics. In Derrida’s case, it would be the idea that any given text can be reduced down to one idea.

I’m having trouble deciding where to go with this next. Should I discuss the metaphysical aspect of Derrida’s Deconstruction, or should I try to discuss how he came to develop Deconstruction?

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