World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000008886
Reproduction Date:

Title: Deconstruction  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jacques Derrida, Philosophy of language, Structuralism, Postmodernism, Continental philosophy
Collection: Deconstruction, Literary Criticism, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy of Language, Postmodern Theory
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Deconstruction (French: déconstruction) is a form of philosophical and literary analysis derived principally from Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology.[1] In the 1980s it designated more loosely a range of theoretical enterprises in diverse areas of the humanities and social sciences, including—in addition to philosophy and literature—law,[2][3][4] anthropology,[5] historiography,[6] linguistics,[7] sociolinguistics,[8] psychoanalysis, political theory, feminism, and gay and lesbian studies. Deconstruction still has a major influence in the academe of Continental Europe and South America where Continental philosophy is predominant, particularly in debates around ontology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of language. It also influenced architecture (in the form of deconstructivism), music,[9] art,[10] and art criticism.[11]

A central premise of deconstruction is that all of Western literature and philosophy implicitly relies on a metaphysics of presence,[12][13] where intrinsic meaning is accessible by virtue of pure presence.[14][15] Deconstruction denies the possibility of a pure presence and thus of essential or intrinsic and stable meaning — and thus a relinquishment of the notions of absolute truth, unmediated access to "reality" and consequently of conceptual hierarchy. "From the moment that there is meaning there are nothing but signs. We think only in signs."[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23] Language, considered as a system of signs, as Ferdinand de Saussure says,[24] is nothing but differences. Words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words. 'Red' means what it does only by contrast with 'blue', 'green', etc. 'Being' also means nothing except by contrast, not only with 'beings' but with 'Nature', 'God', 'Humanity', and indeed every other word in the language. No word can acquire meaning in the way in which philosophers from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell have hoped it might—by being the unmediated expression of something non-linguistic (e.g., an emotion, a sense-datum, a physical object, an idea, a Platonic Form).[25] Derrida terms logocentrism the philosophical commitment to pure, unmediated, presence as a source of self-sufficient meaning.[26][27][28]

Due to this impossibility of pure presence and consequently of intrinsic meaning, any given concept is constituted in reciprocal determination, in terms of its oppositions, e.g. perception/reason, speech/writing, mind/body, interior/exterior, marginal/central, sensible/intelligible, intuition/signification, nature/culture.[29][30] Further, Derrida contends 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": signified over signifier; intelligible over sensible; speech over writing; activity over passivity, etc.[31] 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. But it is not that the final objective of deconstruction is to surpass all oppositions, because it is assumed they are structurally necessary to produce sense. They simply cannot be suspended once and for all. The hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself. But this only points to "the necessity of an interminable analysis" that can make explicit the decisions and arbitrary violence intrinsic to all texts.[32]

Finally, Derrida argues that it is not enough to expose and deconstruct the way oppositions work and how meaning and values are produced, and then stop there in a nihilistic or cynical position regarding all meaning, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively".[33] To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new terms, not to synthesize the concepts in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay. 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. Derrida 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 (e.g. différance, archi-writing, pharmakon, supplement, hymen, gram, spacing).[34]


  • Etymology 1
  • On deconstruction 2
    • Derrida's approach to literary criticism 2.1
    • Basic philosophical concerns 2.2
    • Influence of Nietzsche 2.3
    • Influence of Saussure 2.4
    • Différance 2.5
    • Illustration of différance 2.6
    • Derrida vs. Hegel – Distinguish deconstruction from speculative dialetics 2.7
    • 'Τhere is no outside-text' 2.8
    • Deconstructing "normality" in analytical philosophy 2.9
    • The difficulty of definition and Derrida's "negative" descriptions 2.10
      • Not a method 2.10.1
      • Not a critique 2.10.2
      • Not an analysis 2.10.3
      • Not post-structuralist 2.10.4
    • Alternative definitions 2.11
  • Related works by Derrida 3
    • Antecedent example: the Phenomenology vs. Structuralism debate 3.1
    • Différance 3.2
    • Of Grammatology 3.3
    • Speech and Phenomena 3.4
    • Writing and Difference 3.5
    • Derrida's later work 3.6
  • Development after Derrida 4
    • The Yale School 4.1
    • Critical legal studies movement 4.2
    • Deconstructing History 4.3
    • The Inoperative Community 4.4
    • The Ethics of Deconstruction 4.5
    • Derrida and the Political 4.6
  • Influences 5
  • Criticisms 6
    • John Searle 6.1
    • Jürgen Habermas 6.2
    • Walter A. Davis 6.3
    • In popular media 6.4
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References (works cited) 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


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.[35] Derrida opted for deconstruction over the literal translation destruction to suggest precision rather than violence.

Deconstruction is a form of antifoundationalism[36][37] and a critique of Idealism.[38] Deconstruction is within the Continental—as opposed to analytical—tradition of philosophy.[39]

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 runs counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis). By demonstrating the aporias and ellipses of thought, Derrida hoped to show the infinitely subtle ways that this originary complexity, which by definition cannot ever be completely known, works its structuring and destructuring effects.[40]

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 founded—supposedly 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.[41] Deconstruction generally tries to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole 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."[42] He insists that meaning is made possible by the relations of a word to other words within the network of structures that language is.[43]

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

Derrida’s 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 on the western metaphysical tradition.[44] 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.

Influence of Nietzsche

In order to understand Derrida’s 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?”[45]

Nietzsche’s 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 Orpheus— just happened to discover his true love in the light instead of in the dark. This being merely one historical event amongst many, Nietzsche proposes that we revisualize the history of the west as the history of a series of political moves, that is, a manifestation of the will to power, that at bottom have 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 Nietzsche’s penultimate revaluation of all western values, to the ultimate, which is the final appreciation of “the role of writing in the production of knowledge.”[44]

Influence of Saussure

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 is influenced by the semiology of Ferdinand de Saussure.[46][47]

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.[24]

Saussure explicitly suggested that linguistics was only a branch of a more general semiology, of a science of signs in general, being human codes only one among others. Nevertheless, in the end, as Derrida pointed out, he made of linguistics "the regulatory model", and "for essential, and essentially metaphysical, reasons had to privilege speech, and everything that links the sign to phone".[48] 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 sees the "differences" of language 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 reciprocal determination with the other terms (1-0). This structural difference is the first component that Derrida will take into account when coining the term différance, an important term in deconstruction:[49]

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:[50] The other main component of différance is deferring, that takes into account the fact that meaning is not only a question of synchrony with all the other terms inside a structure, but also of diachrony, with everything that was said and will be said, in History, difference as structure and deferring as genesis:[51]

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."[52]

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":[51]

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:[53]

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.[54]

And it is not enough for 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".[55] To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new concepts, not to synthesize the terms in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay:

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:

Some examples of these new terms created by Derrida clearly exemplify the deconstruction procedure:[56]

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

Illustration of différance

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 be tied to a certain image of a traditional house (i.e. the relationship between signifier and signified) with each term being established in reciprocal determination with 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 différance. 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 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 masculine and feminine in gender theory, man and animal in ecology, the beast and the sovereign in the political field, theory and practice as distinct dominions of thought itself. 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.[57]

The presence of Hegelianism was enormous in the intellectual life of France during the second half of the 20th century with the influence of Kojève and Hyppolite, but also with the impact of dialectics based on contradiction developed by Marxists, and including the existentialism from Sartre, etc. This explains Derrida's concern to always distinguish his procedure from Hegel's:[58]

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 deconstruction:[59]

More than difference is the conflictuality of difference that must be distinguished from contradiction in Hegel to clearly distinguish deconstruction from speculative dialetics:[59]

'Τhere is no outside-text'

There is one statement by Derrida which has been of great interest to his opponents, and which appeared in an essay on Rousseau (part of the highly influential Of Grammatology, 1967),[60] It is the assertion that "there is no outside-text" (il n'y a pas de hors-texte),[60] which is often mistranslated as "there is nothing outside of the text". The mistranslation is often used to suggest Derrida believes that nothing exists but words. Michel Foucault, for instance, famously misattributed to Derrida the very different phrase "Il n'y a rien en dehors du text" for this purpose.[61] According to Derrida, his statement simply refers to the unavoidability of context.[62]

Critics of Derrida have countless times quoted it as a slogan to characterize and stigmatize deconstruction.[62][63][64][65] Some commentators have said that it means that it is not possible to think outside of the philosophical system,[66] or that there is no experience of reality outside of language.[63] With regards to the broadness of the concept of "text", he added:[46][47]

Deconstructing "normality" in analytical philosophy

A sequence of encounters with analytical philosophy is collected in Limited 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:[67]

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”:[68] He would finally argue that the indispensable question would then become:[69]

This dispute is well configured by Umberto Eco when, exposing the example of divergences about the concept of "Denotation" in Stuart Mill and Hjelmslev, concluded:[70]

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".[71] 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 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, in order 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."[72]

Derrida states that deconstruction is not an analysis, a critique, or a method[73] 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."[73] 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."[73] 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 or epoché. Derrida acknowledges that his preference for negative description “has been called...a type of negative theology.”[73] 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.

Not a method

Derrida states that “Deconstruction is not a method, and cannot be transformed into one.”[73] 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.”[73] Commentator Richard Beardsworth explains that
Derrida 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.[74]

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 finds what 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.”[75] 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."[76]

Not a critique

Derrida states that deconstruction is not a critique in the Kantian sense.[73] 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?"[77] 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.

Not an analysis

Derrida states that deconstruction is not an analysis in the traditional sense.[73] 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 différance.

Not post-structuralist

Derrida states that his use of the word deconstruction first took place in a context in which "structuralism was dominant"[78] and its use is related to this context. Derrida states that deconstruction is an "antistructuralist gesture"[78] because "Structures were to be undone, decomposed, desedimented."[78] At the same time for Derrida deconstruction is also a "structuralist gesture"[78] because it is concerned with the structure of texts. So for Derrida deconstruction involves “a certain attention to structures"[78] and tries to “understand how an 'ensemble' was constituted."[73] As both a structuralist and an antistructuralist gesture deconstruction is tied up with what Derrida calls the "structural problematic."[78] The structural problematic for Derrida is the tension between genesis, that which is "in the essential mode of creation or movement,"[79] and structure, "systems, or complexes, or static configurations."[80] An example of 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 terms of structure, and others which must be described in terms of genesis,"[80] 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."[81] 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 can claim 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."[73] Derrida's deconstruction of Husserl Derrida actually argues for the contamination of pure origins by the structures of language and temporality and Manfred Frank has even referred to Derrida's work as "Neostructuralism."[82]

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."[83]
  • Richard Rorty was a prominent interpreter of Derrida's philosophy. His definition of deconstruction is that, "the term 'deconstruction' refers in the first instance to the way in which the 'accidental' features of a text can be seen as betraying, subverting, its purportedly 'essential' message."[84] (The word accidental is used here in the sense of incidental.)
  • John D. Caputo attempts to explain deconstruction in a nutshell by stating:
    "Whenever deconstruction finds a nutshell—a secure axiom or a pithy maxim—the 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 cracking nutshells 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’".[85]
  • David B. Allison is an early translator of Derrida and states in the introduction to his translation of Speech and Phenomena:
    [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.[86]
  • Paul Ricœur defines deconstruction as a way of uncovering the questions behind the answers of a text or tradition.[87]
  • 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[88] and Deconstructions: A User's Guide[89]) have attempted to explain deconstruction while being academically criticized as too far removed from the original texts and Derrida's actual position. 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 must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured in order to be the genesis of something?[90]

In other words, every structural or "synchronic" phenomenon has a history, and the structure cannot be understood without understanding its genesis.[91] At the same time, in order that there be movement, or potential, the origin cannot be some pure unity or simplicity, but must already be articulated—complex—such that from it a "diachronic" process can emerge. This originary complexity must not be understood as an original positing, but more like a default of origin, which Derrida refers to as iterability, inscription, or textuality.[92] 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.[93]


Crucial to Derrida's work is the concept of différance, 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 différance.[94] Différance is an infinitesimal difference that is not only a difference that is non-dualistic, but also it is a difference that is "undecidable"[95] (see Indeterminacy).

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 différance. Différance is therefore the key theoretical basis of deconstruction. Deconstruction questions the basic operation of all philosophy through the appeal to presence and différance. Derrida argues that différance 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".[96] Différance therefore pervades all philosophy because all philosophy is constructed as a system through language. Différance is essential to language because it produces "what metaphysics calls the sign (signified/signifier)".[97]

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 différance "is the economical concept", meaning that it is the concept of all systems and structures, because "there is no economy without différance [...] the movement of différance, as that which produces different things, that which differentiates, is the common root of all the oppositional concepts that mark our language [...] différance is also the production [...] of these differences."[96] Différance is therefore the condition of possibility for all complex systems and hence all philosophy.

Operating through différance, deconstruction is the description of how non-presence problematises the operation of the appeal to presence within a particular philosophical system. Différance is an a-priori condition of possibility that is always already in effect but a deconstruction must be a careful description of how this différance 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.[98]

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 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.

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[99] and understood writing as an inferior derivative of speech.[100] Derrida argues that speech is historically equated with 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 of using 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."[104] 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,[76] 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.[76] 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."[76]

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.

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"[105] 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 compromised by 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."[106] 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."[107] Derrida argues that the involvement of language and temporalisation within the "living present"[107] 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 différance in the structures of language and temporalisation.

Derrida argues that language is a structured system of signs and that the meanings of individual signs are produced by the différance 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 différance 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.[108]

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 Derrida

Authors other than Derrida have also used the term "deconstructionism" with different definitions.[109]

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.

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."[110]

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 history.[111]

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.[112]

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.

The Ethics of Deconstruction

Simon Critchley argues in his 1992 book (2nd edition: 1999; 3rd edition: 2014) The Ethics of Deconstruction[113] 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 Political

Jacques 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.[114]

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'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 Lévi-Strauss, and political and social theorist Michel Foucault. However, Derrida resisted attempts to label his work as "post-structuralist".


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 Jürgen Habermas. Most of the criticism of deconstruction were first articulated by these philosophers and repeated elsewhere.

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."[115]

In 1988, Derrida wrote "Afterword: Toward An Ethic of Discussion", to be published with the previous essays in the collection Limited Inc. Commenting this critics in a footnote he questioned:[116]

In the main text he argued that Searle avoided reading him[116] 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.[117]

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.[118] Because he ignored the tradition he rested blindly imprisoned in it, repeating its most problematic gestures, falling short of the most elementary critical questions.[119]

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.[120]

Jürgen Habermas

In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Jürgen Habermas criticized what he considered Derrida's opposition to rational discourse.[121]

Further, in an essay on religion and religious language, Habermas criticized Derrida's insistence on etymology and philology (see Etymological fallacy).

Walter A. Davis

The American philosopher Walter A. Davis, in Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger, Marx and Freud, argues that both deconstruction and structuralism are prematurely arrested moments of a dialectical movement that issues in Hegelian "unhappy consciousness."[122]

In popular media

Popular criticism of deconstruction also intensified following the Sokal affair, which many people took as an indicator of the quality of deconstruction as a whole, despite the absence of Derrida from Sokal's follow-up book Impostures intellectuelles.[123]

See also


  1. ^ Derrida first used the term "Deconstruction" in his work “Of Grammatology”, French version, p. 25 (Les Éditions de Minuit, 1967, ISBN 978-2-7073-0012-6). On this page Derrida states that the occidental history of sign is essentially theological with reference to Logocentrism. Derrida starts a metaphysical approach of semiology. He states that the concept of sign and deconstruction work are always exposed to misunderstanding. He uses the term "méconnaissance" probably in reference to Jacques Lacan who rejected the belief that reality can be captured in language. In the same page Derrida states that he will try to demonstrate that there is no linguistic sign without writing.
  2. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1992). "Force of Law". Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice. translated by Mary Quaintance, eds., Drucilla Cornell, Michael Rosenfeld, and David Gray Carlson (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. pp. 3–67.  
  3. ^ "Critical Legal Studies Movement" in "The Bridge"
  5. ^ "Legacies of Derrida: Anthropology", Rosalind C. Morris, Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume: 36, pages: 355–389, 2007
  6. ^ "Deconstructing History", published 1997, 2nd. Edn. Routledge, 2006
  7. ^ Busch, Brigitt (2012). Linguistic Repertoire Revisited. Applied Linguistics (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 
  8. ^ "The sociolinguistics of schooling: the relevance of Derrida's Monolingualism of the Other or the Prosthesis of Origin", Michael Evans, 01/2012; ISBN 978-3-0343-1009-3 In book: The Sociolinguistics of Language Education in International Contexts, Publisher: Peter Lang, Editors: Edith Esch and Martin Solly, pp. 31–46
  9. ^ "Deconstruction in Music - The Jacques Derrida", Gerd Zacher Encounter, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2002
  10. ^ E.g., "Doris Salcedo", Phaidon (2004), "Hans Haacke", Phaidon (2000)
  11. ^ E.g. "The return of the real", Hal Foster, October - MIT Press (1996); "Kant after Duchamp", Thierry de Duve, October - MIT Press (1996); "Neo-Avantgarde and Cultural Industry - Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975", Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, October - MIT Press (2000); "Perpetual Inventory", Rosalind E. Krauss, October - MIT Press, 2010
  12. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1973). "Introduction". Speech and Phenomena And Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs. translated with an Introduction by David B. Allison and Preface by Newton Garver (1st ed.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. pp. 4–5.  
  13. ^ Derrida, Jacques (2005). "Chapter 10: Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences". Writing and Difference. translated, with an introduction and additional notes, by Alan Bass (Taylor & Francis e-Library ed.). London: Routledge. p. 353.  
  14. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). "Semiology and Grammatology: Interview with Julia Kristeva". Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 19.  
  15. ^ Evans, J. Claude (1991). Strategies of Deconstruction: Derrida and the Myth of the Voice (1st ed.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. xix–xx.  
  16. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). "Chapter 1 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing". Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 50.  
  17. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). "Chapter 1 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing". Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 48.  
  18. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). "Chapter 1 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing". Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 62.  
  19. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 27.  
  20. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 62–63.  
  21. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 26.  
  22. ^ Derrida, Jacques (2005). "Chapter 10: Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences". Writing and Difference. translated, with an introduction and additional notes, by Alan Bass (Taylor & Francis e-Library ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 353–354.  
  23. ^ Glendinning, Simon (2004). "Chapter Two: Language". In Reynolds, Jack; Roffe, Jonathan. Understanding Derrida (1st ed.). New York: Continuum. p. 7.  
  24. ^ a b Saussure, Ferdinand de (1916 [trans. 1959]). Course in General Linguistics. New York: New York Philosophical Library. pp. 121–22. 
  25. ^ Rorty, Richard (1995). "Deconstructionist Theory". From Formalism to Poststructuralism 8. Cambridge University Press. That is, words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words. 'Red' means what it does only by contrast with 'blue', 'green', etc. 'Being' also means nothing except by contrast, not only with 'beings' but with 'Nature', 'God', 'Humanity', and indeed every other word in the language. No word can acquire meaning in the way in which philosophers from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell have hoped it might -- by being the unmediated expression of something non-linguistic (e.g., an emotion, a sense-datum, a physical object, an idea, a Platonic Form) (...)
    This is not, of course, to say that there is no such thing as linguistic reference to non-language. But merely to repeat Wittgenstein's point that ostensive definition requires a lot of 'stage-setting'. The common-sense claim that 'There's a rabbit' is typically uttered in the presence of rabbits is undermined neither by Wittgenstein's point, nor by Quine's arguments about the inscrutability of reference, nor by Derrida's about the tendency of the signifier to slip away from the signified. For the impact of such arguments on the notion of meaning, see Stout, 'Meaning', and Wheeler, 'Extension'.
  26. ^ Rorty, Richard (1995). "Deconstructionist Theory". From Formalism to Poststructuralism 8. Cambridge University Press. Derrida says of the logocentric philosophers who hold out this hope of immediacy: 'Univocity is the essence, or better, the telos of language. No philosophy has ever renounced this Aristotelian ideal. This ideal is philosophy.' (Margins, p. 247) To succeed in twisting free of the logocentric tradition would be to write, and to read, in such a way as to renounce this ideal. To destroy the tradition would be to see all the texts of that tradition as self-delusive, because using language to do what language cannot do. Language itself, so to speak, can be relied upon to betray any attempt to transcend it (see Derrida, Writing, pp. 278-81). 
  27. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). "Chapter 1 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing". Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 12.  
  28. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1997). "Chapter 1 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing". Of Grammatology. translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Corrected ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 7.  
  29. ^ Derrida, Jacques (2005). "Chapter 7: Freud and the Scene of Writing". Writing and Difference. translated, with an introduction and additional notes, by Alan Bass (Taylor & Francis e-Library ed.). London: Routledge. p. 276.  
  30. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 26.  
  31. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 41.  
  32. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta". Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 41.  
  33. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta". Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 41.  
  34. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1981). "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta". Positions. translated and annotated by Alan Bass (1st ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 19.  
  35. ^ Martin Heidegger (1927) Being and Time, Introduction, part II.5, § 21-23
  36. ^ Brint, Michael; Weaver, William G.; Garmon, Meredith (1995). "What Difference Does Anti-Foundationalism Make to Political Theory?". New Literary History (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 26 (2): 225–237.  
  37. ^ M. Gottdiener, M. (November 1993). "Ideology, Foundationalism, and Sociological Theory". The Sociological Quarterly (Wiley) 34 (4): 653–671.  
  38. ^ Derrida argued in Limited inc. about the problem he found in the constant appeal to "normality" in the analytical tradition from which Austin and Searle were only paradigmatic examples.
  39. ^ Braver, Lee (2007). A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism (1st ed.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. pp. 431–434.  
  40. ^ Rodolphe Gasché, "Infrastructures and Systematicity," in John Sallis (ed.), Deconstruction and Philosophy (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 3–4:
  41. ^ Marian Hobson, Jacques Derrida: Opening Lines, Routledge, 2012, p. 51.
  42. ^ Mark Currie, The Invention of Deconstruction, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, p. 80.
  43. ^ Ramberg, Bjørn and Kristin Gjesdal, "Hermeneutics", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2003, 2005.
  44. ^ a b Post-Modern Platos by Catherine H. Zuckert, Chigago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, chapter 7.
  45. ^ Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by R.J. Hollisdale. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  46. ^ a b Royle, Nicholas (2004) Jacques Derrida, Routledge, 2003, pp. 62–63
  47. ^ a b Derrida and Ferraris (1997), p. 76:
  48. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 21:
  49. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 27:
  50. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 28–30:
  51. ^ a b Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 28–30
  52. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Julia Kristeva" in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 28–30:
  53. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 42–44
  54. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 42:
  55. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 42:  
  56. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 43
  57. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 43:
  58. ^ Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 43.
  59. ^ a b Cf. Jacques Derrida, "Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta," in “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 44.
  60. ^ a b Derrida (1967) Of Grammatology, Part II "Introduction to the "Age of Rousseau," section 2 "...That Dangerous Supplement...", title: "The Exorbitant. Question of Method:, pp. 158–59, 163
  61. ^ "Mon corps, ce papier, ce feu," in the 1972 edition of Foucault's Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (Paris: Gallimard, p. 602)
  62. ^ a b Derrida (1988), Afterword, p. 136.
  63. ^ a b Coward, Harold G. (1990) Derrida and Indian philosophy, pp. 83, 137.
  64. ^ Pidgen, Charles R. (1990) On a defence of derrida, in The Critical review (1990) Issues 30–32, pp. 40–41.
  65. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (2004) Jacques Derrida Dies; Deconstructionist Philosopher, in Washington Post, October 10, 2004, p. C11, accessed August 2, 2007.
  66. ^ Reilly, Brian J. (2005) Jacques Derrida, in Kritzman (2005), p. 500.
  67. ^ Jacques Derrida, Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 133:
  68. ^ Jacques Derrida, Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 133:
  69. ^ Jacques Derrida, Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 133.
  70. ^ Umberto Eco, "Signos" in Enciclopédia Einaudi, Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, p. 108.
  71. ^ Derrida, 1985, p. 4
  72. ^ Derrida [1983], p. 1
  73. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Derrida [1983], p. 3
  74. ^ Beardsworth, R. 1996. Derrida and the Political. London and New York: Routledge, p. 4.
  75. ^ Derrida [1983], p. 4
  76. ^ a b c d Derrida [1980], p. 40
  77. ^ Derrida, J., 1973. Speech and Phenomena. Trans. D.B. Allison. Evanston: Northwestern UP, p. 5.
  78. ^ a b c d e f Derrida [1983], p. 2
  79. ^ Derrida, J., 1978. "'Genesis and Structure' and Phenomenology" from Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass. London & New York: Routledge, p. 194.
  80. ^ a b Derrida, J., 1978. "'Genesis and Structure' and Phenomenology" from Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass. London & New York: Routledge, p. 194.
  81. ^ Derrida, J., 1978. "'Genesis and Structure' and Phenomenology" from Writing and Difference trans. Alan Bass. London & New York: Routledge, p. 196.
  82. ^ Frank, M., 1989. What is Neostructuralism? Trans. S. Wilke & R. Gray. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  83. ^ De Man, in Moynihan 1986, p. 156.
  84. ^ Rorty 1995
  85. ^ Niall Lucy, A Derrida Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
  86. ^ Introduction by Allison, in Derrida, 1973, p. xxxii, n. 1.
  87. ^ Klein 1995
  88. ^ Powell, James and Lee, Joe, Deconstruction for Beginners (Writers & Readers Publishing, 2005)
  89. ^ Royle, Nicholas, Deconstructions: A User's Guide (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000)
  90. ^ Jacques Derrida, "'Genesis' and 'Structure' and Phenomenology," in Writing and Difference (London: Routledge, 1978), paper originally delivered in 1959 at Cerisy-la-Salle, and originally published in Gandillac, Goldmann & Piaget (eds.), Genèse et structure (The Hague: Morton, 1964), p. 167:
  91. ^ If in 1959 Derrida was addressing this question of genesis and structure to Husserl, that is, to phenomenology, then in "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (also in Writing and Difference), he addresses these same questions to Lévi-Strauss and the structuralists. This is clear from the very first line of the paper (p. 278): Between the two papers is staked Derrida's philosophical ground, if not indeed his step beyond or outside philosophy.
  92. ^ Cf. Derrida, Positions (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 95–6: On the phrase "default of origin" as applied to Derrida's work, cf. Bernard Stiegler, "Derrida and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith," in Tom Cohen (ed.) Jacques Derrida and the Humanities (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Stiegler understands Derrida's thinking of textuality and inscription in terms of a thinking of originary technicity, and in this context speaks of "the originary default of origin that arche-writing constitutes" (p. 239). See also Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
  93. ^ On this destabilisation of both "genesis" and "structure," cf. Rodolphe Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 146: And note that this complexity of the origin is thus not only spatial but temporal, which is why différance is a matter not only of difference but of delay or deferral. One way in which this question is raised in relation to Husserl is thus the question of the possibility of a phenomenology of history, which Derrida raises in Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry: An Introduction (1962).
  94. ^ Derrida, J., 2002. Positions. Translated by A. Bass. 2nd ed. introduction by C. Norris. London & New York: Continuum, pp. 5–6.
  95. ^ Leonard Lawlor, "Jacques Derrida", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2003, 2005.
  96. ^ a b Derrida, J., 2002. Positions. Translated by A. Bass. 2nd ed. introduction by C. Norris. London & New York: Continuum, p. 7.
  97. ^ Derrida, J., 2002. Positions. Translated by A. Bass. 2nd ed. introduction by C. Norris. London & New York: Continuum, p. 6.
  98. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, pp. 10–11
  99. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, pp. 7–11, quote: On the historical understanding of language as speech Derrida writes that "These disguises are not historical contingencies that one might admire or regret. Their movement was absolutely necessary" and that "Within this logos [i.e. the western tradition of philosophical thought], the original and essential link to the phonè has never been broken. It would be easy to demonstrate this and I shall attempt such a demonstration later."
  100. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, p. 7; Derrida argues that writing has been considered "a particular, derivative, auxiliary form of language in general"
  101. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, p. 7; Derrida considers the understanding of language as speech "The system of 'hearing (understanding)-oneself-speak' through the phonic substance"
  102. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology: "the co-presence of the other and of the self", p. 12.
  103. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, p. 11
  104. ^ Derrida [1967], Of Grammatology, p. 6
  105. ^ Derrida, J., 1981. Positions. Trans. A. Bass. Chicago: Chicago UP, p. 13.
  106. ^ Derrida, J. 1973. Speech and Phenomena. Trans. D.B. Allison. Evanston: Northwestern UP, p. 5.
  107. ^ a b Derrida, J. 1973. Speech and Phenomena. Trans. D.B. Allison. Evanston: Northwestern UP, p. 6.
  108. ^ Gayatri Spivak in her introduction to her translation of Derrida's Of Grammatology refers to "Cogito and the History of Madness" as a deconstruction.
  109. ^ "Glossary Definition: Deconstructionism." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 5 Dec. 2010 (online).
  110. ^ J. Hillis Miller, "Stevens’ Rock and Criticism as Cure," Georgia Review 30 (1976), p. 34.
  111. ^ "Deconstructing History", published 1997, 2nd. Edn. Routledge, 2006)
  112. ^ Critchley, Simon (18 March 2014). The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, 3rd Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 352.  
  113. ^ The Politics of Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Other of Philosophy [Paperback] Martin McQuillan (Editor)
  114. ^ "An Exchange on Deconstructionism", The New York Review of Books, Vol. 1 #34, February 2, 1984.
  115. ^ a b Derrida, Jacques. Limited, Inc. Northwestern University Press, 1988, p. 158.
  116. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Afterwords" in 'Limited, Inc.' (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 158,
  117. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Afterwords" in 'Limited, Inc.' (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 130,
  118. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Afterwords" in Limited, Inc. (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 131
  119. ^ Jacques Derrida, "Afterwords" in 'Limited, Inc.' (Northwestern University Press, 1988) (Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 131,
  120. ^ Jürgen Habermas (1987), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (trans. Frederick Lawrence), MIT Press, ISBN 0-7456-0830-2, pp. 185–210.
  121. ^ Davis, Walter A. Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger, Marx and Freud. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.
  122. ^  

References (works cited)

  • Derrida, Jacques [1967] (1978). Of Grammatology, trans. by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5830-7
  • Derrida, Jacques. Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs. Trans. David B. Allison. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1973. ISBN 978-0-8101-0590-4.
  • Derrida, Jacques. Positions. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981. ISBN 978-0-226-14331-6
  • Derrida [1980], The time of a thesis: punctuations, first published in:
  • Derrida [1988], Limited Inc
  • Derrida [1990], Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy 2, pp. 113–128
  • Derrida, Jacques [1983], Letter to A Japanese Friend, in Wood, David and Bernasconi, Robert (eds., 1988) Derrida and Différance, Warwick: Parousia, 1985
  • Klein, Anne Carolyn (1995), Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self. Boston: Beacon, 1995. ISBN 978-0-8070-7306-3.
  • Montefiore, Alan (ed., 1983), Philosophy in France Today Cambridge: Cambridge UP, pp. 34–50
  • Moynihan, Robert (1986), Recent Imagining: Interviews with Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul De Man, J. Hillis Miller. Shoe String, 1986. ISBN 978-0-208-02120-5.
  • Rorty, Richard, "From Formalism to Poststructuralism". The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 8. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Further reading

  • Breckman, Warren, “Times of Theory: On Writing the History of French Theory,” Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 71, no. 3 (July 2010), 339–361 (online).
  • Critchley, Simon. The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, Third Edition, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7486-8932-3.
  • Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism, Cornell University Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0-8014-1322-3.
  • Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction, University of Minnesota Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8166-1251-2
  • Ellis, John M.. Against Deconstruction, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989. ISBN 978-0-691-06754-4.
  • Johnson, Barbara. The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0-801-82458-6
  • Reynolds, Simon, Rip It Up and Start Again, New York: Penguin, 2006, pp. 316. ISBN 978-0-143-03672-2. (Source for the information about Green Gartside, Scritti Politti, and deconstructionism.)
  • Stocker, Barry, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Derrida on Deconstruction, Routledge, 2006. ISBN 978-1-134-34381-2
  • Wortham, Simon Morgan, The Derrida Dictionary, Continuum, 2010. ISBN 978-1-847-06526-1

External links

  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary
  • Video of Jacques Derrida attempting to define "Deconstruction"
  • "Deconstruction" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • "Deconstruction" in Stanford Presidential Lectures in the Humanities and Arts
  • "Deconstruction" in Encyclopedia Britannica"
  • "Deconstructing History" by Alun Munslow
  • "Deconstruction" in "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy"
  • "Deconstructionist Theory" by Richard Rorty
  • "German Law Journal special number about Derrida and Deconstruction"
  • "Critical Legal Studies Movement" and the use of Deconstruction"
  • "Deconstruction: Some Assumptions" by John Lye
  • A Bibliography of Literary Theory, Criticism, and Philology by José Ángel García Landa (Deconstruction found under: Authors & Schools - Critics & Schools - Poststructuralism - On Deconstruction)
  • Ten ways of thinking about deconstruction by Willy Maley
  • Archive of the international conference "Deconstructing Mimesis - Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe" about the work of Lacoue-Labarthe and his mimetic version of deconstruction, held at the Sorbonne in January 2006
  • How To Deconstruct Almost Anything - My Postmodern Adventure by Chip Morningstar; a cynical introduction to 'deconstruction' from the perspective of a software engineer.
  • Jacques Derrida: The Perchance of a Coming of the Otherwoman. The Deconstruction of Phallogocentrism from Duel to Duo by Carole Dely, English translation by Wilson Baldridge, at Sens Public
  • Ellen Lupton on deconstruction in Graphic Design
  • Deconstruction of fashion; La moda en la posmodernidad by Adolfo Vasquez Rocca
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.