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Deconstruction

language as a system of signs and words only has meaning because of the contrast between these signs.[15][13]:7, 12 As Rorty contends, 'words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words...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)'.[15]

Finally, Derrida argues that it is not enough to expose and deconstruct the way oppositions work and then stop there in a nihilistic or cynical position, 'thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively'.[17]:42 To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new terms, not to synthesize the concepts in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay.

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 Hegelian dialectics (e.g., différance, archi-writing, pharmakon, supplement, hymen, gram, spacing).[17]:19

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).

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.

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.

Nevertheless, in the end, as Derrida pointed out, Saussure made linguistics 'the regulatory model', and 'for essential, and essentially metaphysical, reasons had to privilege speech, and everything that links the sign to phone'.[17]:21, 46, 101, 156, 164 Derrida will prefer to follow the more 'fruitful paths (formalization)' of a general semiotics without falling into what he considered 'a hierarchizing teleology' privileging linguistics, and to speak of 'mark' rather than of language, not as something restricted to mankind, but as prelinguistic, as the pure possibility of language, working everywhere there is a relation to something else.

(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 signified and signifier), 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'?

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.

This argument is largely based on the earlier work of Heidegger, who, in Being and Time, claimed that the theoretical attitude of pure presence is parasitical upon a more originary involvement with the world in concepts such as ready-to-hand and being-with.[citation needed]

In the deconstruction procedure, one of the main concerns of Derrida is to not collapse into Hegel's dialectic, where these oppositions would be reduced to contradictions in a dialectic that has the purpose of resolving it into a synthesis.[17]:43 The presence of Hegelian dialectics 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 of Sartre, etc.

This explains Derrida's concern to always distinguish his procedure from Hegel's,[17]:43 since Hegelianism believes binary oppositions would produce a synthesis, while Derrida saw binary oppositions as incapable of collapsing into a synthesis free from the original contradiction.

Derrida claimed that all of his essays were attempts to define what deconstruction is,[26]:4 and that deconstruction is necessarily complicated and difficult to explain since it actively criticises the very language needed to explain it.

When asked by Toshihiko Izutsu some preliminary considerations on how to translate 'deconstruction' in Japanese, in order to at least prevent using a Japanese term contrary to deconstruction's actual meaning, Derrida began his response by saying that such a question amounts to 'what deconstruction is not, or rather ought not to be'.[26]:1

In these negative descriptions of deconstruction, Derrida is seeking to 'multiply the cautionary indicators and put aside all the traditional philosophical concepts'.[26]:3 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'.[26]:3 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.

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 would close off the openness that Derrida wishes to preserve for deconstruction.

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'.[26]:3 Commentator Richard Beardsworth explains that

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.

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.

In addition, Derrida asks rhetorically 'Is not the idea of knowledge and of the acquisition of knowledge in itself metaphysical?'[2]:5 By this, Derrida means that all claims to know something necessarily involve an assertion of the metaphysical type that something is the case somewhere.

So, deconstruction involves 'a certain attention to structures'[26]:2 and tries to 'understand how an 'ensemble' was constituted'.[26]:3 As both a structuralist and an antistructuralist gesture, deconstruction is tied up with what Derrida calls the 'structural problematic'.[26]:2 The structural problematic for Derrida is the tension between genesis, that which is 'in the essential mode of creation or movement', and structure: 'systems, or complexes, or static configurations'.[16]:194 An example of genesis would be the sensory ideas from which knowledge is then derived in the empirical epistemology.

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'.[26]:3 In his deconstruction of Husserl, Derrida actually argues for the contamination of pure origins by the structures of language and temporality.

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.

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.

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.[36]

To demonstrate the indeterminacy of legal doctrine, these scholars often adopt 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.

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 has a claim upon intuitive and formal forms of reasoning that must be made explicit in their meaning and relative value, and criticized.

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.

Derrida argued that Austin had missed the fact that any speech event is framed by a 'structure of absence' (the words that are left unsaid due to contextual constraints) and by 'iterability' (the constraints on what can be said, imposed by what has been said in the past).

He also took issue with the way Austin had excluded the study of fiction, non-serious, or 'parasitic' speech, wondering whether this exclusion was because Austin had considered these speech genres as governed by different structures of meaning, or hadn't considered them due to a lack of interest.

Claiming that a clear sender of Searle's message could not be established, Derrida suggested that Searle had formed with Austin a société à responsabilité limitée (a 'limited liability company') due to the ways in which the ambiguities of authorship within Searle's reply circumvented the very speech act of his reply.

Derrida argued that it was problematic to establish the relation between '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'.[25]:133 He

This question is all the more indispensable since the rules, and even the statements of the rules governing the relations of 'nonfiction standard discourse' and its fictional'parasites,' are not things found in nature, but laws, symbolic inventions, or conventions, institutions that, in their very normality as well as in their normativity, entail something of the fictional.

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