Aug 31, 2012

Derrida's preformative dimension

Lee Braver, author of Groundless Ground: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, a reader's guide to Heidegger and A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism, mounts a defense of the philosophy -- and the philosophical style -- of Jacques Derrida:
"Derrida’s difficulty is exacerbated by a kind of performative dimension to his writings. He believes that language is inherently unstable and that a text’s meaning is always open to more than one legitimate interpretation (not infinitely open—readings must be based on what is actually written), and he shows this occurring in his own writing, playing with language and emphasizing ambiguities. This is all very carefully done and, with some work, you can see what he’s doing, but it is very different from our normal ways of reading and, if you don’t have some patience, it comes across as impenetrable gobbledygook. Note, however, that this way of writing follows from his views on the nature of language. Surely this is a sensible an approach as Quine’s describing the fact that there is no fact about meaning in as clear and unequivocal a way as possible.

"He is accused of not doing philosophy, of attacking and rejecting reason, and of not reading his subject matter carefully. But just what philosophy is and how it works and what is allowed to be reasonable is precisely what is at issue in a lot of philosophy, and is often challenged by the great philosophers."
This seems exactly right to me.