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What is "Deconstructionism"?

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I was listening to a radio program today about the now dead Jacques Derrida, father of Deconstruction. As I listened to the program and tried to decipher what exactly descontruction is, I found myself more confused than before I cared or new anything about the subject. After a bit of web surfing I no better off.

Assuming that is can be described in rational terms, is anyone familiar with it and can they sum up a few of its fundemental tennents?

I suspect this is one of those "they muddy the waters to make them appear deep" situations, but I am interested in knowing more (if "know" in the right word).

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I was listening to a radio program today about the now dead Jacques Derrida, father of Deconstruction.  As I listened to the program and tried to decipher what exactly descontruction is, I found myself more confused than before I cared or new anything about the subject.  After a bit of web surfing I no better off.

Well, I think you have just demonstrated a fundamental mastery of the topic. You grasp the essence, now go forth and obfuscate. :(

Or not.

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I was listening to a radio program today about the now dead Jacques Derrida, father of Deconstruction.  As I listened to the program and tried to decipher what exactly descontruction is, I found myself more confused than before I cared or new anything about the subject.  After a bit of web surfing I no better off.

A moment of genius from Scott Ott at scrappleface.com:

Father of Deconstructionism Dies, If 'Death' Means Anything

(2004-10-10) -- French President Jacques Chirac announced today that Jacques Derrida, the father of the intellectual movement called deconstructionism, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, "if indeed 'death' can be said to mean anything beyond the biases of culture, language, religion and philosophy."

"Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist," said Mr. Chirac, "We can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything--Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?"

Mr. Derrida's many books and teachings spawned legions of American college professors whose stock-in-trade is to "deconstruct" literature and philosophy in order to demonstrate that, for example, the so-called classics of Western literature are so distorted by their authors' cultural prejudices as to render them useful only for literary deconstruction.

"Monsieur Derrida bequeathed a magnificent legacy to the global intellectual community," said Mr. Chirac. "He has provided us all with the intellectual infrastructure to prevent us from seeking after truth. Thanks to him we know it is fruitless to assert anything with conviction, or to say that any ideology is less true than any other. They are all equally trifling. Their value, if any, lies only in the sport they provide for college professors."

In lieu of flowers, friends of Mr. Derrida are urged to devote their lives to convincing at least one young person that there is nothing to which it is worth devoting one's life.

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I was listening to a radio program today about the now dead Jacques Derrida, father of Deconstruction.  As I listened to the program and tried to decipher what exactly descontruction is, I found myself more confused than before I cared or new anything about the subject.  After a bit of web surfing I no better off.

What is "deconstruction"? As French philosophy professor Jacque Derrida (1930-2004) used the term, it means: analyzing a written work, such as an essay or a book, to uncover the always corrupt assumptions that underlie all Western philosophy.

Derrida was a founding member of the Post-Structuralist movement. That was the movement that rejected the earlier 20th Century Structuralist movement. Structuralism was an attempt to apply to specialized sciences -- such as anthropology -- a foundationalist (Cartesian) epistemology. Structuralists believe we can organize all of our knowledge into one syllogistically consistent structure whose foundation is fundamental concepts explicitly defined. For the Structuralists, example fundamental concepts (presented as antitheses) are: truth versus falsity, and presence versus absence.

In Objectivist terms, Structuralism is an instance of extreme rationalism. (See The Ayn Rand Lexicon for a brief definition of "Rationalism.")

Derrida's purpose was to show that Structuralism's antitheses (he calls them "binary oppositions") are not dichotomous but intertwined. He analyzed texts -- e.g., written by Plato and Rousseau -- to show that the authors were actually undermining the very concepts they supposedly were applying.

What was Derrida's conclusion? There is no dichotomy between, for example, presence and absence or truth and falsity. Rather, they are intertwined and therefore not fully distinguishable.

I infer that the underlying -- and often implied but never fully stated -- dichotomy which Derrida rejects is A versus non-A. In other words, Derrida's whole project was dedicated to (1) attacking identity in metaphysics (ontology), and (2) promoting skepticism in epistemology.

(For a generally clear treatment of these obscure subjects, see the articles "Post-Structuralism" and "Derrida, Jacques" in the multivolume Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

The only work of Derrida that I have read (if such a term is appropriate) is his Of Grammatology (in Gayatri C. Spivak's translation, John Hopkin's University Press, 1976).

Derrida did not merely try to persuade readers that skepticism is the best path to choose, as quite readable skeptics such as Sextus Empiricus (c. 200 CE) had done. (E.g., see Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism, translators Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes.)

Instead, Derrida created skepticism through his writing style itself. It is almost unintelligible, thus leading the usual reader to believe that Derrida's book is important but impossible to understand because that is the way the world is. To increase the obfuscation, Derrida introduces many new terms and old terms with new, barely intelligible meanings -- and then makes understanding them more difficult by not including a glossary or even an index. Example terms (as applied to deconstructing literature) are: erasure, hinge, logocentrism, transcendental signified, and intertextuality.

Of the series of philosophers I have sampled over the last few years, Derrida is the worst, with Kant (1724-1804) second worst, and Kierkegaard (1813-1855) third worst. (Kierkegaard, by the way, was one historical link between Kant and Derrida; it was Kierkegaard who turned Kant's defensive obfuscation into a deliberate "art.")

Philosophical Hell would be studying Derrida for eternity.

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When it then was discovered, after his death, that an American deconstructionist at Yale, Paul de Mann, had written anti-Semitic and pro-German articles for a newspaper in Belgium during the War, Derrida was forced to defend him with the ultimate deconstructionist interpretive weapon: Everything de Mann wrote meant the opposite of what it seemed to mean.

So "anti-Jewish" really meant "pro-Jewish" and "pro-Nazi" actually meant "anti-Nazi." Of course, deconstructionist professors never tried to argue that "big salary" was equivalent to "little salary" or that "tenure" meant "no tenure."

Amazing how language straightens right up when you're sincere. :)

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I listened to an interview on the net today about "deconstructionism." I was familiar with this term from my university days. I also found it hard to decipher exactly what it was about, but I think I identified it's essence.

Deconstructionism, as stated in a previous post, is an explicit attack on the law of identity and therefore a promotion of skepticism in epistemology. The interviewer said that truth does not exist outside of the historical and cultural forces which determine what people believe.

Maybe someone can help me here, but, doesn't this then render deconstructionism a product of the socio-cultural, historical forces and therefore negating it's validity as a system of thought? I mean, to assert that all ideas do not have any universal truth outside of the predetermined minds of the individuals who believe them, this means all ideas, including deconstructionism. :D Talk about an anti-philosophy. :confused:

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Hi, my name is Nour and I'm a new member. I wonder, what do you know more about this philosopher?

He seems to be really interesting, and his ideas are strange and new for me.

I wouldn't spend too much time on it at all Nour, although it does seem interesting.

Some people may find these helpful (since several have asked for more information):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstructionism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Derrida

And Nour, you may like to see this (obviously I like Wikipedia):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

You probably already know that Rand is a philosopher much more worthy of spending time on.

Believe it or not, last year when I saw "sampling" some of the universities I got into, a professor in a class I attended was teaching this stuff. I chose to go somewhere else. :D

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