DERRIDA, JACQUES

DERRIDA, JACQUES (1930–2004), French philosopher and literary critic. Derrida was born and raised in El-Biar, near Algiers. In 1942, he was expelled from school as result of antisemitic measures. In 1949 he moved to France and beginning in 1952 he studied at the École Normale Superieure, under Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser. He served in the French army in Algeria from 1957 until 1959 as a teacher of French and English. Until 1962 he hoped for the coexistence of the French of Algeria within an independent Algeria. In the same year Derrida resettled in Nice. From 1960 to 1964, Derrida taught at the Sorbonne. From 1964 to 1984 he taught at the École Normale Superieure. In 1983, he founded the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. In 1967 he published the first of a long series of books. He was not only a prolific writer, he also traveled extensively, lecturing and teaching. He was celebrated in the academic world, mostly in a number of American universities (e.g., Johns Hopkins, Yale, Cornell, City University of New York), but was almost excluded from the French university world. Nevertheless, his work was appreciated by many French academicians, among them Ph. Lacoue-Labarthe and J.L. Nancy, E. Levinas, and S. Kofman. Derrida was an outspoken leftist intellectual. When visiting Israel, he had talks with Palestinian intellectuals. In 1981, he traveled to Prague for a clandestine seminar in support of the anti-totalitarian movement and was arrested by the police on the false accusation of drug possession. He was allowed to leave Czechoslovakia thanks to the intervention of François Mitterand and the French government. He also protested against apartheid in South Africa. Among his many awards and honors he received the Nietzsche prize in 1988 and the Adorno Prize in 2001. His oeuvre has been translated into English, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and other languages. -Derrida's Hermeneutics Derrida developed a method, known as "deconstruction." Deconstructionism is neither nihilism nor destruction; it is affirmative openness towards the other. Derrida maintained that the written word is characterized by the absence of the original voice which gave it meaning. It is impossible, therefore, to know the intention behind the written word. Consequently, when one reads what is written, multiple meanings are possible: nobody has a monopoly on the "right" meaning. Letters and documents, from which the writer is absent, are open to endless interpretations, since there is no presence of the speaker who – face to face with the one who receives his words – eventually corrects his words or explains them. Texts are polyvalent and function as letters that did not reach   their destination and are now read by whoever happens to read them. Derrida studied at the Leuven Husserl Archive, and was long occupied with Husserl, whose phenomenology he deconstructed. Protesting against a metaphysics of presence and origin, where everything is transparent, Derrida showed the multiple fissures in texts and the indecidability that is implied in any text. He initiated a new hermeneutic. In a Heraclitian and anti-essentialist way, he showed how the meaning of a text changes all the time. The text is capable of infinite signification, and receives meaning not by reconstructing the intention of its writer, but through its autonomous function. The same book or letter can be read by different readers in different ways, and a second or third reading is not equal to the first. By limiting the text to one meaning, one excludes all other possible meanings. Meanings are produced through the different contexts of the reader and through the context in which a written document is placed. A word also possesses several meanings. This is clear when one takes into account misunderstandings. One phonetic phenomenon can result in a proliferation of meanings, as is the case in the French homophone words l'est, l'é, lait, legs, or ontologie-hauntologie. The same word can also denote something completely different in another language, as in the case of the German "Gift," poison, that is the homophone of the English "gift," present. -Derrida and Postmodernism Derrida is one of the most provocative thinkers of our time, and his thought is part of postmodern philosophy, which does not recognize universal truth and resists the imperialism of the sciences. In postmodernism, each text is a pretext for a multitude of interpretations and is open to the fantasy of the reader. The entire world is one big text and there is no limit to its explanations. Just as in medieval paintings cathedrals are carefully placed in biblical landscapes, the modern reader places his own point of view in every text. There is no absolute, objective truth, and the only truth that is recognized is that of the interpreting person. This does not mean that everyone has his own truth. It would be inaccurate to say that Derrida was a relativist. What he strove for is the advent of the wholly other outside the horizon of the same. In his numerous writings, there is a plenitude of associations, and in his books and articles he placed different texts next to each other, so that they began "speaking." -Derrida's Judaism as Refusal of Totality Derrida admitted that he did not know Jewish culture. This non-knowledge was then elevated to a fundamental "not belonging." In this way, he thought of himself as "the last Jew" (le dernier des juifs): more Jewish than the Jews in his exemplary non-belonging. To be Jewish for Derrida is coterminous with the refusal of the same and the openness towards the wholly other. This non-identification is also what comes into the fore in his deconstructive method. Derrida was French and Jewish. He thought that he was more French than the French people, because he is not a real Frenchman. In a parallel manner, he thought that he was more Jewish than every Jew, because he lacked a concrete engagement towards Judaism. In his view, he is and is not, at the same time. Like Edmond Jabès, Derrida regarded the basic characterisitic of Judaism as a fundamental non-belonging to an all-absorbing totality. Jabès' oeuvre can be read as a poetic commentary on Derrida. Much has been written on the Jewish elements in the writings of such "non-Jewish Jews" (the term is from Deutscher) as Kafka, Marx, and Freud. This is also the case with Derrida, who saw his Jewishness as something contingent and denied that he belonged to any concrete Judaism, but conceived of this refusal as fundamentally Jewish. -Metaphoric Judaism: Deconstruction as Judaism Derrida's Judaism is devoid of any concrete link to history, land, or law. It is at the same time a Judaism that believes because of its openness to the unabsorbable other, and is atheistic, without concrete content. Transcending his merely ethnic Jewishness, Derrida discussed Judaism, touching on many subjects: circumcision, bar mitzvah, the law, messianism, memory, and resurrection. Yet, again, the Judaism that Derrida encircles is without nation or religion. There is a link between Judaism and deconstruction: both are searching. Judaism becomes the example par excellence of his deconstructive method. Derrida does not desert faith, nor does he exclude it. His deconstructionism affirms what is beyond the possible; it affirms the impossible, the coming of the wholly other (tout autre). It is an engagement, a certain faith, and a-theological hope for what is coming. Derrida alters religious sources by referring them to his expectation of what should come. Writing on religious notions like circumcision, confession, eschatology, or messianism, he divests these terms of their concrete, particular meaning and transcends them by translating them into something which is not present and which is hoped for. By reinventing these terms, he escapes the foreseeable and keeps the future (l'à-venir) open ended. In this sense, his method is not far from that of negative theology that refuses to define the wholly other. Derrida's openness to the gift (le don) of justice and of the democracy to come lends to his work a touch of hope, in what was for him the best of Jewish tradition. Derrida's works include L'Ecriture et la différence (1967), La Voix et le phénomène (1967), De la Grammatologie (1967), La Dissémination (1972), Marge – de la philosophie (1972), Glas (1974), and Schibboleth (1986). Later writings are collected in Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, ed. T. Cohen (2002). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J.D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (1997); L. Finas et al., Ecarts: quatre essais à propos de Jacques Derrida (1973); N. Garver and S.C. Lee, Derrida & Wittgenstein (1994); S. Handelman, The Slayers of Moses:   The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory (1982); I.H. Harvey, Derrida and the Economy of Différance (1986); C. Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (Cambridge Studies in French 40), (1993); P. Lacoue-Labarthe and JL. Nancy (eds.), Les fins de l'homme – Colloque de Cérisy (1981); J. Llewelyn, Derrida on the Threshold of Sense (1986); G.B. Madison (ed.), Working through Derrida (1993); M.C. Taylor, Deconstructing Theology (1982); Idem, Erring(s): A Postmodern(ist) a/theolog, (1984); E. Weber (ed.), Questions au judaïsme, entretiens avec Elisabeth Weber (1996); D. Wood and R. Bernasconi, Derrida and Différance (1988). (Ephraim Meir (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Derrida, Jacques — born July 15, 1930, El Biar, Alg. died Oct. 8, 2004, Paris, France Algerian born French philosopher. Derrida taught principally at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (1964–84). His critique of Western philosophy encompasses literature,… …   Universalium

  • Derrida, Jacques — (1930 2004)    A French philosopher of Jewish descent well known for his philosophy of Derrida came to prominence deconstruction , in 1966, when he delivered a paper that advocated a deconstruction of the structuralist movement. Derrida then… …   Christian Philosophy

  • Derrida, Jacques — (1930 )    philosopher    Jacques Derrida, a leading contemporary French philosopher whose writings form the basis for the deconstructionist school, was born in El Biar, Algeria, and educated in Paris at the École normale supérieure, where he… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Derrida, Jacques — (1930– ) French postmodernist and leader of the deconstructionist movement. Born in Algeria, Derrida was a philosophy teacher for more than twenty years at the École Normale Supérieure. The notion of deconstruction was first presented in the… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Derrida, Jacques — (b. 1930)    French philosopher. Derrida was born in Algiers, but educated in Paris. He has taught at the école Normale Supérieure and the école des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales as well as at Yale, Cornell and the University of California.… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Derrida, Jacques — See Deconstruction and Derrida …   History of philosophy

  • Derrida,Jacques — Der·ri·da (dĕrʹĭ dä , dĕʹrē ), Jacques. Born 1930. Algerian born French philosopher who developed the theory of deconstruction. His widely influential works include Speech and Phenomena, Writing and Difference, and Of Grammatology, all published… …   Universalium

  • Derrida, Jacques — (1930 2004)    French philosopher. Born in Algiers, he taught at the Ecole Normale Superieure and later at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. His works include Speech and Phenomena, Writing and Difference, Margins of Philosophy,… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Derrida, Jacques — (15 jul. 1930, El Biar, Argelia–9 oct. 2004, París, Francia). Filósofo francés nacido en Argelia. Enseñó principalmente en la École Normale Supérieure de París (1965–84). Su crítica de la filosofía occidental se extiende a la literatura, la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Derrida, Jacques — (1930 2004)    refer to the entries on becoming + cinema , nonbeing and virtual/virtuality …   The Deleuze dictionary

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