Sunday, October 10, 2004

Black Sunday: French philosopher Jacques Derrida No More
Jacques Derrida was born on July 15, 1930, into a Jewish family in El Biar, Algeria, then part of France, In 1949, Derrida left Algeria for Paris to further his education, receiving an advanced degree in philosophy from the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in 1956.
With Derrida, France has given the world one of its greatest contemporary philosophers, one of the major figures of intellectual life of our time. Derrida was known as the father of deconstructionism, a kind of critical thinking or mode of analysis developed in the late 1960s and applied to literature, linguistics, philosophy, law and architecture.
As Derrida explains in his Letter to a Japanese Friend the word deconstruction is his attempt both to translate and re-appropriate for his own ends the Heideggerian terms 'Destruktion' and 'Abbau' via a word already existent in the French language whose varied senses seemed consistent with his requirements. Particularly through his long-time association with the literary critic Paul de Man, he has had a significant effect on literary theory, (though the reception of deconstruction in literary criticism is not universally agreed to be consonant with Derrida's work).
He focused his work on language, showing that it has multiple layers and thus multiple meanings or ways of being interpreted.
This challenges the notion that speech is a direct form of communication or even that the author of a text is the author of its meaning. Derrida applied this approach to Western values as well.
The deconstructionist approach has remained controversial, with detractors even proclaiming the movement dead. So divisive were Derrida's ideas that Cambridge University's plan to award him an honorary degree in 1992 was forced to a vote. He won.
Death haunted him like you and me. Since Plato, it is the old philosophical injunction: to learn to live is to learn to die.
Less and less have I learned to accept death. I remain uneducable about the wisdom of learning to die; [Google News Library of World's greatest philosophers Eternity for Philosopher who wrote Specters of Marx]