Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Jacques DerridaDeconstruction is a term in contemporary philosophy, literary criticism, and the social sciences, denoting a process by which the texts and languages of Western philosophy (in particular) appear to shift and complicate in meaning when read in light of the assumptions and absences they reveal within themselves. Jacques Derrida coined the term in the 1960s, and proved more forthcoming with negative, rather than pined-for positive, analyses of the school.

Subjects relevant to deconstruction include the philosophy of meaning in Western thought, and the ways that meaning is constructed by Western writers, texts, and readers and understood by readers. Though Derrida himself denied deconstruction was a method or school of philosophy, or indeed anything outside of reading the text itself, the term has been used by others to describe Derrida's particular methods of textual criticism, which involved discovering, recognizing, and understanding the underlying—and unspoken and implicit—assumptions, ideas, and frameworks that form the basis for thought and belief, for example, in complicating the ordinary division made between nature and culture. Derrida's deconstruction was drawn mainly from the work of Martin Heidegger and his notion of Destruktion but also from Levinas and his ideas upon the Other.

Edmund Husserl is one of the major influences on the development of Derrida's thought and Husserl is both mentor and foil to the development of deconstruction. In Derrida's "two polemics which placed him [Husserl] in opposition to those philosophies of structure called Diltheyism and Gestaltism". These two polemics by Husserl are forerunners of Derrida's own deconstruction. Derrida notes admiringly that Husserl:

“ ceaselessly attempts to reconcile the structuralist demand (which leads to the comprehensive description of a totality, of a form or a function organized according to an internal legality in which elements have meaning only in the solidarity of their correlation or their opposition), with the genetic demand (that is the search for the origin and foundation of the structure). ”


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