PHILOSOPHY 312: DERRIDA UN-LIMITED

(CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHY)

Professor Hugh J. Silverman

Department of Philosophy

Stony Brook University

Spring Semester 2006

Mon & Wed 5:20-6:40


Protocol # 1:

Introducing Derrida and Deconstruction

January 25, 2006


These notes are prepared by Joe Son and Arsalan Memon (Teaching Assistants). They do not replace attendance in the class which is mandatory. They are to serve as a reminder and to assist students in understanding the readings and what is presented in class. (HJS)


Jacques Derrida's “Letter to a Japanese Friend” (written in 1983) was published few years later. This letter that Derrida wrote to Professor Izutsu, (a Japanese Islamologist) parallels the letter that Heidegger wrote to a Japanese friend, Professor Tezuka (published in 1982 and included in Heidegger’s On the Way to Language). Heidegger attempts to explain to Professor Tezuka hermeneutics, the study of interpretation, as Derrida attempts to explain Professor Izutzu deconstruction.

There is a lot going on in the very term “deconstruction.” Deconstruction has built into its structure three basic words: structure, construction and destruction.

Derrida tells us that he used the word ‘deconstruction’ for the first time in Of Grammatology (Kamuf, 270).  Though some have suggested that it is already at work in his 1962 Introduction to the Origin of Geometry. Deconstruction” arose for Derrida in his attempt to translate Heidegger’s words “Destruktion” and “Abbau” (Kamuf, 271). The German words Destruktion and Abbau (translated as “un-building” and “un-doing”) has a positive and a negative sense respectively. But note that deconstruction is neither construction nor destruction; it is in between them at the intersections of building and un-building, doing and un-doing. It is between destruction, which is " analysis" or "breaking into individual or component parts" (cf. Descartes's Discourse on Method and his "analytic geometry") and construction, which is "synthesis, or joining all of the pieces together to form a whole."

In the reflexive form (se déconstruire), deconstruction operates on itself. placing itself "in the between." That is, deconstructiondeconstructs it-self” (Kamuf, 274). This means that: it too “can be deconstructed [se déconstruit]” (Kamuf, 274). The “it” or “ça” of “ça se déconstruit” does not refer to a diametrically opposed “egological subjectivity,” instead the “it” refers to deconstruction itself. The “it” is “in deconstruction” itself (Kamuf, 274). And the “se” of “se déconstruire” (“to deconstruct it-self … to lose its construction”) does not refer to the “reflexivity of an ego or of a consciousness” rather it is deconstruction itself deconstructing itself. Deconstruction does not depend on a subject. It is ‘always already’ happening within a text.

"Text” is not simply a written text like a book instead “text” could be anything (i.e a building, a painting, architecture, writing.) that can be read or deconstructed.

END FIRST LECTURE