A friend of mine, brought my attention to this article: http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=461, by journalist Hari. The friend, in question said I might/might not appreciate it- a scathing comment on a dead man. Well, I don’t appreciate it– I can’t quite put classify it alongside necrophillia, but I’d rank it a close second. Let me pay Hari a compliment- it takes genius to produce a perfect amalgamation of rhetoric, semantics and blind ignorance.
To his credit Derrida is one of those philosophers whose work created an entire school of thought, collectively referred to ‘Deconstruction’. The technique of Deconstruction is far from amorphous (which Mr. Hari so vociferously propogates), Deconstruction is medium of analysis- which just like any other tool makes sense when properly applied. The maximin rule of economic theory doesn’t necessarily fit existential queries! It wasn’t meant to do so. And yet, Deconstruction applies to a wide range of disciplines from literature to law and architecture.
Derrida’s books explore the phenomenon of speech and grammar. Reading writing with a difference was central to Derrida’s philosophy. In fact- Deconstruction is the very root of logical analysis; a further deliberance on Decartes second rule. There is much to be said on the Idiom– language can be sexist, linguist combinations espouse morals. Derrida was not reductionist– he merely suggested that is vital to explore individual meanings to find that which has unshakeable foundations. In his time Derrida found no absolutes, in my experience I have found no intellectual absolute. Subjectvity has lessons to teach; a lesson that not all can be categorised into blacks and whites.
The assumption that language is capable of expressing ideas without changing them, that in the hierarchy of language– writing is secondary to speech, and that the author of a text is the source of its meaning is almost juvenile. No meaning is unchanging and unified- meanings vary with perception! Even speech is an unclear method of communication (it is simply the clear*est* method we know); if one were to judge intentions with each utterance.
Having said that, Hari’s article is no surprise to me. Human capacity to deal with complexity is limited; and multiple layers of meaning at work are tough to grasp. It is even more difficult to accept that an idiom is constantly shifting- no matter how easy it may be to demonstrate (Timeless classics for example, how do we draw lessons from period pieces of the victorian era– lessons and meanings are re-understoof and re-applied) Hari suffers from the same problem.
Derrida’s thought is not destructive of literature; it is in fact constructive though uncomfortably so. It highlights contrasts between ideals and distinguishes between clarity and coherence and by virtue of that defies definition and yet! That is not ground enough to questions its very valid propositions.