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    Deconstruction (French: dconstruction) is a literary theory and philosophy of language derived principally from

    Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology.[1] The premise of deconstruction is that all of Western literature and

    philosophy implicitly relies on a metaphysics of presence, where intrinsic meaning is accessible by virtue of pure

    presence. Deconstruction denies the possibility of a pure presence and thus of essential or intrinsic meaning.

    Derrida terms the philosophical commitment to pure presence as a source of self-sufficient meaning logocentrism.

    Due to the impossibility of pure presence and consequently of intrinsic meaning, any given concept is constituted

    and comprehended linguistically and in terms of its oppositions, e.g. perception/reason, speech/writing, mind/body,

    interior/exterior, marginal/central, sensible/intelligible, intuition/signification, nature/culture. Further, Derrida

    contends that of these dichotomies one member is associated with presence and consequently more highly valued

    than the other which is associated with absence. Deconstruction reveals the metaphysics of presence in a text by

    identifying its conceptual binary oppositions and demonstrating the speciousness of their hierarchy by denying the

    possibility of comprehending the "superior" element of the hierarchy in the absence of its "inferior" counterpart.

    Denying an absolute and intrinsic meaning to either element of the hierarchy diffrance is revealed (rather than

    proposed as an alternative) according to Derrida. Diffrance is a Derridaean neologism that is the antithesis of

    logocentrism, it is a perpetual series of interactions between presence and absencewhere a concept is constituted,

    comprehended and identified in terms of what it is not and self-sufficient meaning is never arrived atand thus a

    relinquishment of the notions of intrinsic and stable meaning, absolute truth, unmediated access to "reality" and

    consequently of conceptual hierarchy.

    To situate deconstruction within philosophy in general, it is a critique of Idealism and a form of antifoundationalism.

    In terms of heritage, style and conceptual framework (namely phenomenological), deconstruction is within the

    Continentalas opposed to analyticaltradition of philosophy.

    Derrida's writings on deconstruction are most strongly associated with literary criticism. However, they have also

    been applied to music, visual arts, feminist theory and post-colonial theory, film theory, and Post-Marxist politicalphilosophy. Derrida's theories on deconstruction were themselves influenced by the work of linguists such as

    Ferdinand de Saussure (whose writings on semiotics also became a cornerstone of structuralist theory in the

    mid-20th century) and literary theorists such as Roland Barthes (whose works were an investigation of the logical

    ends of structuralist thought). Derrida's views on deconstruction stood opposed to the theories of structuralists such

    as psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan, linguist Claude Lvi-Strauss, and political and social theorist Michel

    Foucault. However, Derrida resisted attempts to label his work as "post-structuralist". [citation needed]


    Although he avoided defining the term directly, Derrida sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion

    or Abbau, to textual reading. Heidegger's term referred to a process of exploring the categories and concepts that

    tradition has imposed on a word, and the history behind them.[2] Derrida opted for deconstruction over the literal

    translation destruction to suggest precision rather than violence.[citation needed]

    On deconstruction

    Derrida's approach to literary criticism

    Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating all the forms and varieties of the originary complexity of semiotics, and

    their multiple consequences in many fields. His way of achieving this was by conducting thorough, careful,

    sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, with an ear to what in those texts runscounter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis). By demonstrating the
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    aporias and ellipses of thought, Derrida hoped to show the infinitely subtle ways that this originary complexity,

    which by definition cannot ever be completely known, works its structuring and destructuring effects. [3]

    Deconstruction denotes the pursuing of the meaning of a text to the point of exposing the supposed contradictions

    and internal oppositions upon which it is foundedsupposedly showing that those foundations are irreducibly

    complex, unstable, or impossible. It is an approach that may be deployed in philosophy, in literary analysis, and even

    in the analysis of scientific writings.[4]

    Deconstruction generally tries to demonstrate that any text is not a discretewhole but contains several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings; that any text therefore has more than one

    interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these

    interpretations is irreducible; and thus that an interpretative reading cannot go beyond a certain point. Derrida refers

    to this point as an "aporia" in the text; thus, deconstructive reading is termed "aporetic."[5] He insists that meaning is

    made possible by the relations of a word to other words within the network of structures that language is. [6]

    Derrida initially resisted granting to his approach the overarching name "deconstruction," on the grounds that it was

    a precise technical term that could not be used to characterize his work generally. Nevertheless, he eventually

    accepted that the term had come into common use to refer to his textual approach, and Derrida himself increasingly

    began to use the term in this more general way.

    Basic philosophical concerns

    Derridas concerns flow from a consideration of several issues:

    1. A desire to contribute to the re-valuation of all western values, built on the 18th century Kantian critique of

    reason, and carried forward to the 19th century, in its more radical implications, by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

    2. An assertion that texts outlive their authors, and become part of a set of cultural habits equal to, if not surpassing,

    the importance of authorial intent.

    3. A re-valuation of certain classic western dialectics: poetry vs. philosophy, reason vs. revelation, structure vs.

    creativity, episteme vs. techne, etc.

    To this end, Derrida follows a long line of modern philosophers, who look backwards to Plato and his influence onthe western metaphysical tradition.[7] Like Nietzsche, Derrida suspects Plato of dissimulation in the service of a

    political project, namely the education, through critical reflections, of a class of citizens more strategically positioned

    to influence the polis. However, like Nietzsche, Derrida is not satisfied merely with such a political interpretation of

    Plato, because of the particular dilemma modern humans find themselves stuck in. His Platonic reflections are

    inseparably part of his critique of modernity, hence the attempt to be something beyond the modern, because of this

    Nietzschian sense that the modern has lost its way and become mired in nihilism.

    Deconstruction in relation to Nietzsche's philosophy

    In order to understand Derridas motivation, one must refer to Nietzsche's philosophy.

    Nietzsche's project began with Orpheus, the man underground. This foil to Platonic light was deliberately and

    self-consciously lauded in Daybreak, when Nietzsche announces, albeit retrospectively, In this work you will

    discover a subterranean man at work, and then goes on to map the project of unreason: All things that live long are

    gradually so saturated with reason that their origin in unreason thereby becomes improbable. Does not almost every

    precise history of an origination impress our feelings as paradoxical and wantonly offensive? Does the good

    historian not, at bottom, constantly contradict?[8]

    Nietzsches point in Daybreak is that standing at the end of modern history, modern thinkers know too much to be

    deceived by the illusion of reason any more. Reason, logic, philosophy and science are no longer solely sufficient as

    the royal roads to truth. And so Nietzsche decides to throw it in our faces, and uncover the truth of Plato, that he

    unlike Orpheusjust happened to discover his true love in the light instead of in the dark. This being merely onehistorical event amongst many, Nietzsche proposes that we revisualize the history of the west as the history of a
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    series of political moves, that is, a manifestation of the will to power, thatat bottomhave no greater or lesser claim

    to truth in any noumenal (absolute) sense. By calling our attention to the fact that he has assumed the role of

    Orpheus, the man underground, in dialectical opposition to Plato, Nietzsche hopes to sensitize us to the political and

    cultural context, and the political influences that impact authorship. For example, the political influences that led one

    author to choose philosophy over poetry (or at least portray himself as having made such a choice), and another to

    make a different choice.

    The problem with Nietzsche, as Derrida sees it, is that he did not go far enough. That he missed the fact that this will

    to power is itself but a manifestation of the operation of writing. And so Derrida wishes to help us step beyond

    Nietzsches penultimate revaluation of all western values, to the ultimate, which is the final appreciation of the role

    of writing in the production of knowledge.

    From diffrance to deconstruction

    Derrida approaches all texts as constructed around elemental oppositions which all discourse 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 difference inside a "system of distinct signs".

    This approach to text, in a broad sense,[9][10] 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 that linguistics was only a branch ofa more general semiology, of a science of signs in

    general, being human codes only one among others. Nevertheless, in theend, 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".[11] 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 do not have an"absolute" meaning, but can only get it from reciprocaldetermination with the other terms (1-0). This structural difference is the first component that Derrida will take into

    account when articulating the meaning of diffrance, a mark he felt the need to create and will become a

    fundamental tool in his life long work, deconstruction:[12]

    1) Diffrance 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

    diffrance indicates this indecision as concerns activity and passivity, that which cannot be governed by or

    distributed between the terms of these opposition) production of the intervals without which the "full" terms

    would not signify, would not function.

    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:[13] The other main component of diffrance is deferring, that takes into account the fact that meaning is
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    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 deffering as genesis: [14]

    2) "the a of diffrance 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 orfuture element in an economy of traces. This economic aspect of diffrance, which brings into play a certain

    not conscious calculation in a field of forces, is inseparable from the more narrowly semiotic aspect of


    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." [15]

    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 "differance":

    At the point at which the concept of differance, 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

    differance in favor of the presence of a value or a meaning supposedly antecedent to differance, 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."

    But, as Derrida also points out, these relations with other terms do not express only meaning but also values. The

    way elemental oppositions are put to work in all texts it is 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 these oppositions:[16]

    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.

    It is 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 does not mean that they do not need to be

    analyzed and criticized in all its manifestations, showing the way these oppositions, both logical and axiological, are

    at work in all discourse for it to be able to produce meaning and values. [17]

    And it is 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".[18] 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 irruptiveemergence of a new concept that no longer be, and never could be, included in the previous regime. If this
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    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


    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

    Some examples of these new terms created by Derrida clearly exemplify the deconstruction procedure:[19]

    (the pharmkon is neither remedynor 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.

    Nevertheless, perhaps Derrida's most famous mark was, from the start, differance, created to deconstruct theopposition between speech and writing and open the way to the rest of his approach:

    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

    Illustration ofdiffrance

    For example, the word "house" derives its meaning more as a function of how it differs from "shed", "mansion",

    "hotel", "building", etc. (Form of Content, that Louis Hjelmslev distinguished from Form of Expression) than how

    the word "house" may betied to a certain image of a traditional house (i.e. therelationship between signifier and

    signified) with each term being established in reciprocal determinationwith the other terms than by an ostensive

    description or definition: when can we talk about a "house" or a "mansion" or a "shed"? The same can be said about

    verbs, in all the languages in the world: when should we stop saying "walk" and start saying "run"? The same

    happens, of course, with adjectives: when must we stop saying "yellow" and start saying "orange", or exchange

    "past" for "present? Not only are the topological differences between the words relevant here, but the differentials

    between what is signified is also covered by diffrance. Deferral also comes into play, as the words that occur

    following "house" in any expression will revise the meaning of that word, sometimes dramatically so. This is true not

    only with syntagmatic succession in relation with paradigmatic simultaneity, but also, in a broader sense, between

    diachronic succession in History related with synchronic simultaneity inside a "system of distinct signs".

    Thus, complete meaning is always "differential" and postponed in language; there is never a moment when meaning

    is complete and total. A simple example would consist of looking up a given word in a dictionary, then proceeding to

    look up the words found in that word's definition, etc., also comparing with older dictionaries from different periods
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    in time, and such a process would never end.

    This is also true with all ontological oppositions and their many declensions, not only in philosophy as in human

    sciences in general, cultural studies, theory of Law, etc.: 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, analysis and

    synthesis, the literal sense and figurative meaning in language, reason and madness in psychoanalysis, the masculineand 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. In all speeches in fact (and by right) we can make clear how they

    were dramatized, how the cleavages were made during the centuries, each author giving it different centers and

    establishing different hierarchies between the terms in the opposition

    Derrida vs. Hegel Distinguish deconstruction from speculative dialetics

    In the deconstruction procedure, one of the main concerns of Derrida is not to collapse into 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.[20]

    The presence of Hegelianism was enormous in the intellectual life of France during the second half of the 20th

    century with the influence of Kojve 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 concern to always

    distinguish his procedure from Hegel's:[21]

    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.

    This difference from Hegel should be understood as essential from the start, and the Differance being one of the first

    terms that he tried more accurately to distinguish from all forms of Hegelian difference when proceeding with


    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.

    More than difference is the conflictuality of difference that must be distinguished from contradiction in Hegel to

    clearly distinguish deconstruction from speculative dialetics:

    Differance (at a point of almost absolute proximity to Hegel, everything, what is most decisive, is played out,

    here, in what Husserl called "subtle nuances," or Marx "micrology") must sign 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 reconciliate(sic) that I prefer to employ the mark "differance" rather

    than refer to the system of difference- and-contradiction.

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    'There is nothing outside the text'

    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

    is 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, the context is an integral part of the text. [23]

    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


    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. [24][25]

    Some commentators have said that it means that it is not possible to think outside of the philosophical system,[26] or

    that there is no experience of reality outside of language. [] With regards to the broadness of the concept of "text", he


    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.

    Deconstructing "normality" in analytical philosophy

    A sequence of encounters with analytical philosophy is collected inLimited Inc (1988), having Austin and Searle as

    the main interlocutors. Derrida would argue there about the problem he found in the constant appeal to "normality"

    in the analytical tradition from which Austin and Searle were only paradigmatic examples. His deconstruction there

    of the structure called "normal" is in many ways paradigmatic of his approach: [27]

    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 neithercan 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.

    He continued arguing how problematic it was establishing the relation between "normal", "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 :[28] He would

    finally argue that the indispensable question would then become:[29]

    what is "nonfiction standard discourse," what must it be and what does this name evoke, once its fictionality orits fictionalization, its transgressive "parasitism," is always possible (and moreover by virtue of the very same
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    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.

    This dispute is well configured by Umberto Eco when, exposing the example of divergences about the concept of"Denotation" in Staurt Mill and Hjelmslev, concluded:[30]

    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).

    The difficulty of definition and Derrida's "negative" descriptions

    When asked "What is deconstruction?" Derrida replied, "I have no simple and formalisable response to this question.

    All my essays are attempts to have it out with this formidable question".[31] Derrida believes that deconstruction is

    necessarily complicated and difficult to explain since it actively criticises the very language needed to explain it.

    Derrida's defenders[citation needed] argue that in giving this reply, Derrida was simply being consistent: the word

    "deconstruction" is as slippery as any other word in the dictionary. Others criticize Derrida for being unable to define

    the discipline that he himself created, and for being evasive about it.

    Derrida has been more forthcoming with negative (apophatic) than positive descriptions of deconstruction. When

    asked by Toshihiko Izutsu some preliminary considerations on how to translate "deconstruction" in Japanese, inorder to at least prevent going contrary to its actual meaning, Derrida therefore began his response by saying that

    such question amounts to "what deconstruction is not, or rather ought not to be."[32]

    Derrida states that deconstruction is not an analysis, a critique, or a method[33] in the traditional sense that

    philosophy understands these terms. In these negative descriptions of deconstruction Derrida is seeking to "multiply

    the cautionary indicators and put aside all the traditional philosophical concepts." This does not mean that

    deconstruction has absolutely nothing in common with an analysis, a critique, or a method because while Derrida

    distances deconstruction from these terms, he reaffirms "the necessity of returning to them, at least under erasure."

    Derrida's necessity of returning to a term under erasure means that even though these terms are problematic we must

    use them until they can be effectively reformulated or replaced. Derrida's thought developed in relation to Husserl's

    and this return to something under erasure has a similarity to Husserl's phenomenological reduction orepoch.Wikipedia:No original research Derrida acknowledges that his preference for negative description has been

    called...a type of negative theology. The relevance of the tradition of negative theology to Derrida's preference for

    negative descriptions of deconstruction is the notion that a positive description of deconstruction would

    over-determine the idea of deconstruction and that this would be a mistake because it would close off the openness

    that Derrida wishes to preserve for deconstruction. This means that if Derrida were to positively define

    deconstruction as, for example, a critique then this would put the concept of critique for ever outside the possibility

    of deconstruction. Some new philosophy beyond deconstruction would then be required in order to surpass the

    notion of critique.
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    Not a method

    Derrida states that Deconstruction is not a method, and cannot be transformed into one.[33] This is because

    deconstruction is not a mechanical operation. Derrida warns against considering deconstruction as a mechanical

    operation when he states that It is true that in certain circles (university or cultural, especially in the United States)

    the technical and methodological metaphor that seems necessarily attached to the very word deconstruction has

    been able to seduce or lead astray.

    Commentator Richard Beardsworth explains thatDerrida is careful to avoid this term [method] because it carries connotations of a procedural form of

    judgement. A thinker with a method has already decided how to proceed, is unable to give him or herself up to

    the matter of thought in hand, is a functionary of the criteria which structure his or her conceptual gestures. For

    Derrida [...] this is irresponsibility itself. Thus, to talk of a method in relation to deconstruction, especially

    regarding its ethico-political implications, would appear to go directly against the current of Derrida's

    philosophical adventure.[34]

    Beardsworth here explains that it would be irresponsible to undertake a deconstruction with a complete set of rules

    that need only be applied as a method to the object of deconstruction because this understanding would reduce

    deconstruction to a thesis of the reader that the text is then made to fit. This would be an irresponsible act of reading

    because it ignores the empirical facticity of the text itself that is it becomes a prejudicial procedure that only findswhat it sets out to find. To be responsible a deconstruction must carefully negotiate the empirical facticity of the text

    and hence respond to it. Deconstruction is not a method and this means that it is not a neat set of rules that can be

    applied to any text in the same way. Deconstruction is therefore not neatly transcendental because it cannot be

    considered separate from the contingent empirical facticity of the particular texts that any deconstruction must

    carefully negotiate. Each deconstruction is necessarily different (otherwise it achieves no work) and this is why

    Derrida states that Deconstruction takes place, it is an event.[35] On the other hand, deconstruction cannot be

    completely untranscendental because this would make it meaningless to, for example, speak of two different

    examples of deconstruction as both being examples of deconstruction. It is for this reason that Richard Rorty asks if

    Derrida should be considered a quasi-transcendental philosopher that operates in the tension between the demands of

    the empirical and the transcendental. Each example of deconstruction must be different, but it must also share

    something with other examples of deconstruction. Deconstruction is therefore not a method in the traditional sense

    but is what Derrida terms "an unclosed, unenclosable, not wholly formalizable ensemble of rules for reading,

    interpretation and writing."

    Not a critique

    Derrida states that deconstruction is not a critique in the Kantian sense. This is because Kant defines the term

    critique as the opposite of dogmatism. For Derrida it is not possible to escape the dogmatic baggage of the language

    we use in order to perform a pure critique in the Kantian sense. For Derrida language is dogmatic because it is

    inescapably metaphysical. Derrida argues that language is inescapably metaphysical because it is made up of

    signifiers that only refer to that which transcends them the signified. This transcending of the empirical facticity

    of the signifier by an ideally conceived signified is metaphysical. It is metaphysical in the sense that it mimics the

    understanding in Aristotle's metaphysics of an ideally conceived being as that which transcends the existence of

    every individually existing thing. In a less formal version of the argument it might be noted that it is impossible to

    use language without asserting being, and hence metaphysics, constantly through the use of the various

    modifications of the verb "to be". In addition Derrida asks rhetorically "Is not the idea of knowledge and of the

    acquisition of knowledge in itself metaphysical?"[36] By this Derrida means that all claims to know something

    necessarily involve an assertion of the metaphysical type that something is the case somewhere. For Derrida the

    concept of neutrality is suspect and dogmatism is therefore involved in everything to a certain degree.

    Deconstruction can challenge a particular dogmatism and hence desediment dogmatism in general, but it cannot

    escape all dogmatism all at once.
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    Not an analysis

    Derrida states that deconstruction is not an analysis in the traditional sense. This is because the possibility of analysis

    is predicated on the possibility of breaking up the text being analysed into elemental component parts. Derrida

    argues that there are no self-sufficient units of meaning in a text. This is because individual words or sentences in a

    text can only be properly understood in terms of how they fit into the larger structure of the text and language itself.

    For more on Derrida's theory of meaning see the page on diffrance.

    Not post-structuralist

    Derrida states that his use of the word deconstruction first took place in a context in which "structuralism was

    dominant"[37] and its use is related to this context. Derrida states that deconstruction is an "antistructuralist gesture"

    because "Structures were to be undone, decomposed, desedimented." At the same time for Derrida deconstruction is

    also a "structuralist gesture" because it is concerned with the structure of texts. So for Derrida deconstruction

    involves a certainattention to structures" and tries to understand how an 'ensemble' was constituted." As both a

    structuralist and an antistructuralist gesture deconstruction is tied up with what Derrida calls the "structural

    problematic." The structural problematic for Derrida is the tension between genesis, that which is "in the essential

    mode of creation or movement,"[38]

    and structure, "systems, or complexes, or static configurations."[39]

    An exampleof genesis would be the sensory ideas from which knowledge is then derived in the empirical epistemology. An

    example of structure would be a binary opposition such as good and evil where the meaning of each element is

    established, at least partly, through its relationship to the other element.

    For Derrida, Genesis and Structure are both inescapable modes of description, there are some things that "must be

    described in termsof structure, and others which must be described in terms of genesis," but these two modes of

    description are difficult to reconcile and this is the tension of the structural problematic. In Derrida's own words the

    structural problematic is that "beneath the serene use of these concepts [genesis and structure] is to be found a debate

    that...makes new reductions and explications indefinitely necessary."[40] The structural problematic is therefore what

    propels philosophy and hence deconstruction forward. Another significance of the structural problematic for Derrida

    is that while a critique of structuralism is a recurring theme of his philosophy this does not mean that philosophy canclaim to be able to discard all structural aspects.

    It is for this reason that Derrida distances his use of the term deconstruction from post-structuralism, a term that

    would suggest philosophy could simply go beyond structuralism. Derrida states that the motif of deconstruction has

    been associated with "post-structuralism"" but that this term was "a word unknown in France until its return from

    the United States." Derrida's deconstruction of Husserl Derrida actually arguesfor the contamination of pure origins

    by the structures of language and temporality and Manfred Frank has even referred to Derrida's work as


    Alternative definitions

    The popularity of the term deconstruction combined with the technical difficulty of Derrida's primary material on

    deconstruction and his reluctance to elaborate his understanding of the term has meant that many secondary sources

    have attempted to give a more straightforward explanation than Derrida himself ever attempted. Secondary

    definitions are therefore an interpretation of deconstruction by the person offering them rather than a direct summary

    of Derrida's actual position.

    Paul de Man was a member of the Yale School and a prominent practitioner of deconstruction as he understood it.

    His definition of deconstruction is that, "[i]t's possible, within text, to frame a question or undo assertions made in

    the text, by means of elements which are in the text, which frequently would be precisely structures that play off

    the rhetorical against grammatical elements."[42]

    Richard Rorty was a prominent interpreter of Derrida's philosophy. His definition of deconstruction is that, "theterm 'deconstruction' refers in the first instance to the way in which the 'accidental' features of a text can be seen
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    as betraying, subverting, its purportedly 'essential' message."[43] (The word accidental is used here in the sense of


    John D. Caputo attempts to explain deconstruction in a nutshell by stating:

    "Whenever deconstruction finds a nutshella secure axiom or a pithy maximthe very idea is to crack

    it open and disturb this tranquility. Indeed, that is a good rule of thumb in deconstruction. That is what

    deconstruction is all about, its very meaning and mission, if it has any. One might even say that crackingnutshells is what deconstruction is. In a nutshell. ...Have we not run up against a paradox and an aporia

    [something contradictory]...the paralysis and impossibility of an aporia is just what impels

    deconstruction, what rouses it out of bed in the morning..." (Caputo 1997, p.32)

    Niall Lucy points to the impossibility of defining the term at all, stating:

    "While in a sense it is impossibly difficult to define, the impossibility has less to do with the adoption of

    a position or the assertion of a choice on deconstruction s part than with the impossibility of every is as

    such. Deconstruction begins, as it were, from a refusal of the authority or determining power of every

    is, or simply from a refusal of authority in general. While such refusal may indeed count as a position,

    it is not the case that deconstruction holds this as a sort of preference".[44]

    David B. Allison is an early translator of Derrida and states in the introduction to his translation of Speech and


    [Deconstruction] signifies a project of critical thought whose task is to locate and 'take apart' those

    concepts which serve as the axioms or rules for a period of thought, those concepts which command the

    unfolding of an entire epoch of metaphysics. 'Deconstruction' is somewhat less negative than the

    Heideggerian or Nietzschean terms 'destruction' or 'reversal'; it suggests that certain foundational

    concepts of metaphysics will never be entirely eliminated...There is no simple 'overcoming' of

    metaphysics or the language of metaphysics.[45]

    Paul Ricur defines deconstruction as a way of uncovering the questions behind the answers of a text or


    Richard Ellmann defines 'deconstruction' as the systematic undoing of understanding.

    A survey of the secondary literature reveals a wide range of heterogeneous arguments. Particularly problematic are

    the attempts to give neat introductions to deconstruction by people trained in literary criticism who sometimes have

    little or no expertise in the relevant areas of philosophy that Derrida is working in relation to. These secondary works

    (e.g. Deconstruction for Beginners[47] and Deconstructions: A User's Guide[48]) have attempted to explain

    deconstruction while being academically criticized as too far removed from the original texts and Derrida's actual

    position.[citation needed] In an effort to clarify the rather muddled reception of the term deconstruction Derrida

    specifies what deconstruction is not through a number of negative definitions.

    Related works by Derrida

    Antecedent example: the Phenomenology vs. Structuralism debate

    Before coining the term Deconstruction, Derrida began speaking and writing publicly at a time when the French

    intellectual scene was experiencing an increasing rift between what could broadly be called "phenomenological" and

    "structural" approaches to understanding individual and collective life. 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 problematic and misleading avenue of interrogation, and the

    "depth" and originality of experience could in fact only be an effect of structures which are not themselves

    experiential. It is in this context that in 1959 Derrida asks the question: Must not structure have a genesis, and mustnot the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured in order to be the genesis of something?[49]
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    In other words, every structural or "synchronic" phenomenon has a history, and the structure cannot be understood

    without understanding its genesis.[50] 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 articulatedcomplexsuch 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. [51] It is this thought of originary

    complexity, rather than original purity, which destabilises the thought of both genesis and structure, that sets

    Derrida's work in motion, and from which derive all of its terms, including deconstruction. [52]


    Crucial to Derrida's work is the concept of diffrance, a complex term which refers to the process of the production

    of difference and deferral. According to Derrida, all difference and all presence arise from the operation of

    diffrance.[53] Diffrance is an infinitesimal difference that is not only a difference that is non-dualistic, but also it is

    a difference that is "undecidable"[54] (seeIndeterminacy).

    To deconstruct philosophy is to think carefully within philosophy about philosophical concepts in terms of their

    structure and genesis. Deconstruction questions the appeal to presence by arguing that there is always an irreducible

    aspect of non-presence in operation. Derrida terms this aspect of non-presence diffrance. Diffrance is therefore thekey theoretical basis of deconstruction. Deconstruction questions the basic operation of all philosophy through the

    appeal to presence and diffrance. Derrida argues that diffrance pervades all philosophy because "What defers

    presence [...] is the very basis on which presence is announced or desired in what represents it, its sign, its trace". [55]

    Diffrance therefore pervades all philosophy because all philosophy is constructed as a system through language.

    Diffrance is essential to language because itproduces "what metaphysics calls the sign (signified/signifier)".[56]

    In one sense, a sign must point to something beyond itself that is its meaning so the sign is never fully present in

    itself but a deferral to something else, to something different. In another sense the structural relationship between the

    signified and signifier, as two related but separate aspects of the sign, is produced through differentiation. Derrida

    states that diffrance "is the economical concept", meaning that it is the concept of all systems and structures,

    because "there is no economy without diffrance [...] the movement of diffrance, as that which produces different

    things, that which differentiates, is the common root of all the oppositional concepts that mark our language [...]

    diffrance is also the production [...] of these differences." Diffrance is therefore the condition of possibility for all

    complex systems and hence all philosophy.

    Operating through diffrance, deconstruction is the description of how non-presence problematises the operation of

    the appeal to presence within a particular philosophical system. Diffrance is an a-priori condition of possibility that

    is always already in effect but a deconstruction must be a careful description of how this diffrance is actually in

    effect in a given text. Deconstruction therefore describes problems in the text rather than creating them (which would

    be trivial). Derrida considers the illustration of aporia in this way to be productive because it shows the failure of

    earlier philosophical systems and the necessity of continuing to philosophise through them with deconstruction.

    Of Grammatology

    Derrida first employs the term deconstruction in Of Grammatology in 1967 when discussing the implications of

    understanding language as writing rather than speech. Here Derrida introduces deconstruction to describe the manner

    that understanding language as writing (in general) renders infeasible a straightforward semantic theory. Derrida

    states that:

    [w]riting thus enlarged and radicalized, no longer issues from a logos. Further, it inaugurates the

    destruction, not the demolition but the de-sedimentation, the de-construction, of all the significations

    that have their source in that of the logos.[57]

    In this quotation Derrida states that deconstruction is what happens to meaning when language is understood as

    writing. For Derrida, when language is understood as writing it is realised that meaning does not originate in the
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    logos or thought of the language user. Instead individual language users are understood to be using an external

    system of signs, a system that exists separately to them because these signs are written down. The meaning of

    language does not originate in the thoughts of the individual language user because those thoughts are already taking

    place in a language that does not originate with them. Individual language users operate within a system of meaning

    that is given to them from outside. Meaning is therefore not fully under the control of the individual language user.

    The meaning of a text is not neatly determined by authorial intention and cannot be recreated without problem by a

    reader. Meaning necessarily involves some degree of interpretation, negotiation, or translation. This necessity for the

    active interpretation of meaning by readers when language is understood as writing is why deconstruction takes

    place.[citation needed]

    To understand this more fully, consider the difference for Derrida between understanding language as speech and as

    writing. Derrida argues that people have historically understood speech as the primary mode of language[58] and

    understood writing as an inferior derivative of speech.[59] Derrida argues that speech is historically equated with

    logos,[60] meaning thought, and associated with the presence of the speaker to the listener. [61] It is as if the speaker

    thinks out loud and the listener hears what the speaker is thinking and if there is any confusion then the speaker's

    presence allows them to qualify the meaning of a previous statement. Derrida argues that by understanding speech as

    thought, language "effaces itself."[62]

    Language itself is forgotten. The signified meaning of speech is so immediatelyunderstood that it is easy to forget that there are linguistic signifiers involved; but these signifiers are the spoken

    sounds (phonemes) and written marks (graphemes) that actually comprise language. Derrida therefore associates

    speech with a very straightforward and unproblematic theory of meaning and with the forgetting of the signifier and

    hence language itself.

    Derrida contrasts the understanding of language as speech with an understanding of language as writing. Unlike a

    speaker, a writer is usually absent (even dead) and the reader cannot rely on the writer to clarify any problems that

    there might be with the meaning of the text. The consideration of language as writing leads inescapably to the insight

    that language is a system of signs. As a system of signs the signifiers are present but the signification can only be

    inferred. There is effectively an act of translation involved in extracting a significaton from the signifiers of

    language. This act of translation is so habitual to language users that they must step back from their experience ofusing language in order to fully realise its operation. The significance of understanding language as writing rather

    than speech is that signifiers are present in language but significations are absent. To decide what words mean is

    therefore an act of interpretation. The insight that language is a system of signs, most obvious in the consideration of

    language as writing, leads Derrida to state that "everything [...] gathered under the name of language is beginning to

    let itself be transferred to [...] the name of writing."[63] This means that there is no room for the naive theory of

    meaning and forgetting of the signifier that previously existed when language was understood as speech.

    Later in his career, in 1980, Derrida retrospectively confirmed the importance of his observation on the devaluation

    of writing,[] which proved valid not only for classics of philosophy and the "socio-historical totality" of our

    civilization, but also for the deconstruction of a variety of modern scientific texts in linguistics, in anthropology, in

    psychoanalysis. Everywhere in these texts, such detection devaluation of writing showed to be "insistent, repetitive,

    even obscurely compulsive," and " the sign of a whole set of long-standing constraints. These constraints were

    practised at the price of contradictions, of denials, of dogmatic decrees."

    Here Derrida states that deconstruction exposes historical constraints within the whole history of philosophy that

    have been practised at the price of contradictions, denials, and dogmatic decrees. The unmasking of how

    contradictions, denials, and dogmatic decrees are at work in a given text is closely associated with deconstruction.

    The careful illustration of how such problems are inescapable in a given text can lead someone to describe that text

    as deconstructed.
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    Speech and Phenomena

    Derrida's first book length deconstruction is his critical engagement with Husserl's phenomenology in Speech and

    Phenomena published in 1967. Derrida states that Speech and Phenomena is the "essay I value the most"[64] and it is

    therefore a very important example of deconstruction.

    Husserl's philosophy is grounded in conscious experience as the ultimate origin of validity for all philosophy and

    science. Derrida's deconstruction operates by illustrating how the originary status of consciousness is compromisedby the operation of structures within conscious experience that prevent it from being "the original self-giving

    evidence, the present or presence of sense to a full and primordial intuition."[65] Derrida argues that Husserl's

    "phenomenology seems to us tormented, if not contested from within, by its own descriptions of the movement of

    temporalization and language."[66] Derrida argues that the involvement of language and temporalisation within the

    "living present" of conscious experience means that instead of consciousness being the pure unitary origin of validity

    that Husserl wishes it be, it is compromised by the operation of diffrance in the structures of language and


    Derrida argues that language is a structured system of signs and that the meanings of individual signs are produced

    by the diffrance between that sign and other signs. This means that words are not self-sufficiently meaningful but

    only meaningful as part of a larger structure that makes meaning possible. Derrida therefore argues that the meaning

    of language is dependent on the larger structures of language and cannot originate in the unity of conscious

    experience. Derrida therefore argues that linguistic meaning does not originate in the intentional meaning of the

    speaking subject. This conclusion is very important for deconstruction and explains the importance of Speech and

    Phenomena for Derrida. Informed by this conclusion the deconstruction of a text will typically demonstrate the

    inability of the author to achieve their stated intentions within a text by demonstrating how the meaning of the

    language they use is, at least partially, beyond the ability of their intentions to control. Similarly, Derrida argues that

    Husserl's description of temporal consciousness where he describes the retension of past conscious experience

    and protension of future conscious experience introduces the structural diffrance of temporal deferral, temporal

    non-presence, into consciousness. This means that the past and future are not in the living present of conscious

    experience but they taint the presence of the living present with their conscious absence through retension and

    protension. Husserl's description of temporal consciousness therefore compromises the total self presence of

    conscious experience required by Husserl's philosophy once again.

    Writing and Difference

    Writing and Difference is a collection of essays published by Derrida in 1967. Each essay is a critical negotiation by

    Derrida of texts by philosophical or literary writers. These essays have come to be termed deconstructions even

    though some of them were written before Derrida's first use of the term in Of Grammatology. For example, the

    chapter "Cogito and the History of Madness," dating from 1963, has been referred to as a deconstruction of the work

    of Michel Foucault, yet the term "deconstruction" does not actually appear in the chapter.[67]

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    Derrida's later work

    While Derrida's deconstructions in the 1960s and 1970s were frequently concerned with the major philosophical

    systems, in his later work he is often concerned to demonstrate the aporias of specific terms and concepts, including

    forgiveness, hospitality, friendship, the gift, responsibility and cosmopolitanism.

    Development after DerridaAuthors other than Derrida have also used the term "deconstructionism" with different definitions. [68]

    The Yale School

    Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s many thinkers were influenced by deconstruction, including Paul de

    Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller. This group came to be known as the Yale school and was especially

    influential in literary criticism. Several of these theorists were subsequently affiliated with the University of

    California Irvine.[citation needed]

    Miller has described deconstruction this way: Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text, but a

    demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently solid ground is no rock, but thin air." [69]

    Critical legal studies movement

    Arguing that law and politics cannot be separated, the founders of "Critical Legal Studies Movement" found

    necessary to criticize its absence at the level of theory. To demonstrate the indeterminacy of legal doctrine, these

    scholars often adopts a method, such as structuralism in linguistics or deconstruction in Continental philosophy, to

    make explicit the deep structure of categories and tensions at work in legal texts and talk. The aim was to deconstruct

    the tensions and procedures by which they are constructed, expressed, and deployed.

    For example, Duncan Kennedy, in explicit reference to semiotics and deconstruction procedures, maintains that

    various legal doctrines are constructed around the binary pairs of opposed concepts, each of which with a claim upon

    intuitive and formal forms of reasoning that must be made explicit, not only in their meaning but also its relative

    value, and criticized. Self and other, private and public, subjective and objective, freedom and control are examples

    of such pairs demonstrating the influence of this opposing concepts on the development of legal doctrines through


    Deconstructing History

    Deconstructive readings of history and sources have changed the entire discipline of history. In "Deconstructing

    History", Alun Munslow examines history in what he argues is a postmodern age. He provides an introduction to the

    debates and issues of postmodernist history. He also surveys the latest research into the relationship between the

    past, history, and historical practice, as well as forwarding his own challenging theories.[71]

    The Inoperative Community

    Jean-Luc Nancy argues in his 1982 book The Inoperative Community for an understanding of community and

    society that is undeconstructable because it is prior to conceptualisation. Nancy's work is an important development

    of deconstruction because it takes the challenge of deconstruction seriously and attempts to develop an

    understanding of political terms that is undeconstructable and therefore suitable for a philosophy after Derrida.
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    The Ethics of Deconstruction

    Simon Critchley argues in his 1992 book (second edition: 1999; third edition: 2014) The Ethics of Deconstruction

    that Derrida's deconstruction is an intrinsically ethical practice. Critchley argues that deconstruction involves an

    openness to the other that makes it ethical in the Levinasian understanding of the term.

    Derrida and the PoliticalJacques Derrida has had a huge influence on contemporary political theory and political philosophy. Derrida's

    thinking has inspired Slavoj Zizek, Richard Rorty, Ernesto Laclau, Judith Butler and many more contemporary

    theorists developed a deconstructive approach to politics. Because deconstruction examines the internal logic of any

    given text or discourse it helped many authors to analyse the contradictions inherent in all schools of thought, and as

    such it has proved revolutionary in political analysis, particularly ideology critiques.[72]

    Richard Beardsworth, developing on Critchley's Ethics of Deconstruction, argues in his 1996 Derrida and the

    Political that deconstruction is an intrinsically political practice. He further argues that the future of deconstruction

    faces a choice (perhaps an undecidable choice) between a theological approach and a technological approach

    represented first of all by the work of Bernard Stiegler.


    Derrida has been involved in a number of high profile disagreements with prominent philosophers including Michel

    Foucault, John Searle, Willard Van Orman Quine, Peter Kreeft, and Jrgen Habermas. Most of the criticism of

    deconstruction were first articulated by these philosophers and repeated elsewhere.

    Michel Foucault

    Michel Foucault was the subject of Derrida's early paper "Cogito and the History of Madness" in which Derrida

    makes the controversial claim that:

    In this 673-page book (sc.History of Madness), Michel Foucault devotes three pages- and, moreover, in

    a kind of prologue to his second chapter to a certain passage from the first of Descartes's Meditations.

    [... in] alleging correctly or incorrectly, as will be determined that the sense of Foucault's entire

    project can be pinpointed in these few allusive and somewhat enigmatic pages, and that the reading of

    Descartes and the Cartesian Cogito proposed to us engages in its problematic the totality of this History

    of Madness...[73]

    The audacity of Derrida's claim to problematise the whole of the History of Madness by working with such a small

    section of the text outraged Foucault. Foucault responds in the new preface to the 1972 edition of the History of

    Madness by complaining that after the initial publication of the text "fragments of it pass into circulation and are

    passed off as the real thing."[74]

    This comment may form the basis of the allegation that deconstruction does notadhere to conventional academic standards by failing to deal substantially with the texts it appears to criticise.

    Foucault also states in the appendix to the 1972 edition titled "My Body, This Paper, This Fire" that Derrida's

    deconstruction is a:

    [H]istorically well-determined little pedagogy, which manifests itself here in a very visible manner. A

    pedagogy which teaches the student that there is nothing outside the text, but that in it, in its interstices,

    in its blanks and silences, the reserve of the origin reigns; that it is never necessary to look beyond it, but

    that here, not in the words of course, but in words as crossings-outs [sic], in their lattice, what is said is

    "the meaning of being". A pedagogy that inversely gives to the voice of the masters that unlimited

    sovereignty that allows it indefinitely to re-say the text.[75]

    This rebuke by Foucault caused a rift between the two thinkers and they did not speak to each other for ten years.

    Foucault refers in this passage to certain claims that Derrida makes in Of Grammatology, though without quotation
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    or citation to indicate that he is doing so. Foucault's mention of "crossings-outs" refers to the return to problematic

    terms under erasure (see the section on Derrida's negative descriptions of deconstruction). Foucault also alludes

    critically to the problematisation of presence in deconstruction as a reading of what is not there in the text. This

    aspect of Foucault's argument may have encouraged Derrida to strongly emphasise the importance of fidelity to the

    text being deconstructed. Foucault's reference to Derrida's assertion that "there is nothing outside the text" is the

    basis of much criticism of deconstruction as being nihilistic, relativistic, apolitical, or confined to the ivory tower of

    academia.Wikipedia:No original research In fact, this infamous quote is subtly but essentially mistranslated (as

    Foucault well knew, and thus this acknowledgement does not necessarily confute his argument), and literally reads

    "there is no outside-text (il n'y a pas hors-texte)," or, as Derrida himself paraphrased it in Limited Inc., "there is

    nothing outside context." Thus, Derrida does not argue that only what is written in the text is relevant to it, but rather

    that no text can or should be interpreted without considering the various "external" factors (historical, biographical,

    material, ideological, etc.) that contributed to its production. At the same time, according to Derrida, these allegedly

    "external" phenomena (e.g. "humanism," "the age of enlightenment," "logic," and, perhaps most importantly,

    "human nature") need to be considered as historically contingent (i.e. as subject to contextualization and thus critical

    reading) rather than as immutable and inevitable facts of life.

    John Searle

    Derrida wrote "Signature Event Context", a paper in which he critically engages with Austin's analytic philosophy of

    language. John Searle is a prominent supporter of Austin's philosophy and objected to "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."[76]

    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. Searle's quote was:[77]

    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 tes idiot' (hence "terroriste")

    In 1988, Derrida wrote "Afterword: Toward An Ethic of Discussion", to be published with the previous essays in the

    collectionLimited Inc. Commenting this critics in a footnote he questioned:[78]

    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 ajugement d'autorite, 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 treatedseparately. 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[78] and did not 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. [79]

    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.[80] Because he ignored the tradition he rested blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most

    problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions. [81]
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    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.[82]

    Jrgen Habermas

    In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Jrgen Habermas criticized what he considered Derrida's opposition to

    rational discourse.[83]

    Further, in an essay on religion and religious language, Habermas criticized Derrida's insistence on etymology and

    philology[citation needed] (seeEtymological fallacy).

    Walter A. Davis

    The American philosopher Walter A. Davis, in Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger,