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Deconstructing Deconstruction Essay

1481 words - 6 pages

The term “Deconstruction” was first employed in the philosophical sense by Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. As such, the concept and movement of Deconstruction was founded solely by Derrida, without much influence from contemporary sources. However, Derrida did draw from previous philosophers such as Nietzsche, Husserl, the linguist Saussure, Heidegger, and the psychologist Sigmund Freud.

Deconstruction began as both an expansion and reaction to Structuralism, a movement that was particularly popular in 1960’s France. Though Derrida was somewhat influenced by structuralist thinkers, (most notable Saussure) Deconstruction can be by no means categorized at structuralist. Derrida did claim that Deconstruction held a certain element of Structuralism, [Derrida 1985] but that element is not definitive in nature; Deconstruction is independent from Structuralism.
Derrida founded the concept of Deconstruction for two reasons.

Firstly, Derrida wanted to apply the Heideggerian concept of Destruktion “to his own ends.” [Derrida 1985] It has been noted that Deconstruction is somewhat “less negative” [Allison 1973] than Destruktion but it still revolves around a certain idea of reversal (which is somewhat similar to “reversal” in the Nietzschean sense) [Derrida 1985] that entails the unfolding of structure.

Secondly, Deconstruction was created as a reaction to Structuralism, because Derrida saw the Structuralist notion of structure to be flawed. Structuralism sought to create an external system by which other systems (such as language) could be evaluated. However, Derrida pointed out that such a structure must have, at its “center,” the concept at hand, while simultaneously revolving around the idea that a center must be outside of a structure in order to have “authority” over it. [Derrida 1966] This is why “… classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it.” [Derrida 1996]

This means that the structuralist notion of structure was flawed because it necessitated that the concept it was evaluating (what Derrida calls the "center") could not be considered a part of the structure itself. However, in order for the structure to have any validity over the concept it was evaluating, that concept had to become a part of the structure itself.

Defining Deconstruction is a nearly implacable task. Indeed, Derrida himself seemingly never gave an outright, concise definition of the term because he felt that “All sentences of the type ‘deconstruction is X’ or ‘deconstruction is not X’ a priori miss the point, which is to say that they are at least false.” [Derrida 1985] This is because that Deconstruction, like any other word, “acquires its value only from its inscription in a chain of possible substitutions, in what is too blithely called a ‘context‘.” [Derrida 1985]

However, this is not to say that Deconstruction itself could mean absolutely anything....

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