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Derrida Essay

10474 words - 42 pages

Derrida: Structure Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences" by Jacques DerridaJacques Derrida first read his paper "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences (1966)" at the John Hopkins International Colloquium on "The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man" in October 1966 articulating for the first time a post structuralist theoretical paradigm. This conference was described by Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donata to be "the first time in United States when structuralism had been thought of as an interdisciplinary phenomenon". However, even before the conclusion of the conference there were clear signs that the ruling trans-disciplinary paradigm of structuralism had been superseded, by the importance of Derrida's "radical appraisals of our assumptions" Derrida begins the essay by referring to 'an event' which has 'perhaps' occurred in the history of the concept of structure, that is also a 'redoubling'. The event which the essay documents is that of a definitive epistemological break with structuralist thought, of the ushering in of post-structuralism as a movement critically engaging with structuralism and also with traditional humanism and empiricism. It turns the logic of structuralism against itself insisting that the "structurality of structure" itself had been repressed in structuralism. Derrida starts this essay by putting into question the basic metaphysical assumptions of Western philosophy since Plato which has always principally positioned itself with a fixed immutable centre, a static presence. The notion of structure, even in structuralist theory has always presupposed a centre of meaning of sorts. Derrida terms this desire for a centre as "logocentrism" in his seminal work "Of Grammatology (1966)". 'Logos', is a Greek word for 'word' which carries the greatest possible concentration of presence. As Terry Eagleton explains in "Literary Theory: An Introduction (1996)", "Western Philosophy…. has also been in a broader sense, 'logocentric', committed to a belief in some ultimate 'word', presence, essence, truth or reality which will act as the foundation for all our thought, language and experience. It has yearned for the sign which will give meaning to all others, - 'the transcendental signifier' - and for the anchoring, unquestioning meaning to which all our signs can be seen to point (the transcendental signified')." Derrida argues that this centre thereby limits the "free play that it makes possible", as it stands outside it, is axiomatic - "the Centre is not really the centre". Under a centered structure, free play is based on a fundamental ground of the immobility and indisputability of the centre, on what Derrida refers to "as the metaphysics of presence". Derrida's critique of structuralism bases itself on this idea of a center. A structure assumes a centre which orders the structure and gives meanings to its components, and the...

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