Strategies of Deconstruction

Strategies of Deconstruction: Derrida and the Myth of the Voice

J. Claude Evans
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Strategies of Deconstruction
    Book Description:

    The first detailed critical study of Derrida’s interpretation and critique of Husserl.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8370-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    It is often said that Jacques Derrida’s early critiques of Husserl and Saussure provide the most carefully argued introductions to his “deconstructive” approach to the tradition of Western philosophy. Indeed, it has been said that one virtue of his early texts of the late 1960s is that in them Derrida stillargued. Many writers on Derrida have found that his texts generally measure up to the highest standards of scholarly rigor. Thus in the preface to the English translation ofLa voix et le phénomène, Newton Garver writes that “Derrida’s critique of Husserl is a first-class piece of analytical work...

  6. Part I. Husserl and the Philosophy of Presence:: Speech and Phenomena
    • Chapter 1 Speech and Phenomena: The Introduction
      (pp. 3-26)

      The Introduction toSpeech and Phenomenasketches out the general framework within which the argument of the book will unfold, and it must be read carefully with an eye both to the general direction Derrida will take and to the specific strategies he will use. Here he has two main concerns. First, he briefly emphasizes thecontinuityone finds in Husserl’s work, in spite of its extensive development and transformation over the years. This emphasis is crucial, as Derrida will concentrate much of his energy on the first paragraphs of the first of theLogical Investigations, which appeared in 1901...

    • Chapter 2 “Sign and Signs”
      (pp. 27-42)

      Chapter 1 ofSpeech and Phenomenacontains an initial probing of some of the “essential distinctions” with which Husserl begins the first of theLogical Investigations. Husserl distinguishes between two fundamental kinds of signs: expressions (Ausdrücke), which mean (bedeuten) something or express a meaning (Bedeutung); and indications or indicative signs (Anzeichen), which do not express a meaning. An indicative sign indicates the presence or existence of some object, but it does not express anything: the track of an animal indicates the past presence of the animal, but it does not express the proposition that the animal passed this place. In...

    • Chapter 3 “The Reduction of Indication”
      (pp. 43-55)

      Derrida’s short second chapter follows Husserl as he attempts to demonstrate that indication is not essential to expression. Indication must be “set aside, abstracted, and ’reduced’ ” (SP, 28/29). Indication involves a unity of motivation, which Husserl defines as including logical demonstration as well as indication in the strict sense. This general account employs concepts (Sein, Bestand) broader than those appropriate to indication in the strict sense (Existenz, Dasein, Realität). The latter is distinguished from logical demonstration, which concerns not reality or real existence but idealities and ideal necessities.

      Only ideal contents can be linked together in logically necessary ways....

    • Chapter 4 “Wanting-to-Say as Soliloquy”
      (pp. 56-72)

      In chapter 3 ofSpeech and Phenomena, Derrida grants Husserl the claimed separation of expression and indication in order to follow what Husserl is able to do on this basis. What does it mean to call expressions meaningful signs,bedeutsame Zeichen, signs that “want to say” (veulent-dire) something? Derrida spells this out in two major steps. The first (A) is dominated by the claim that meaning (Bedeutung) is a function of oral discourse. The second (B) develops the further claim that it is not in oral discourse in general, but in the interior monologue of soliloquy, that purity of expression...

    • Chapter 5 “Wanting-to-Say and Representation”
      (pp. 73-96)

      Chapter 4 ofSpeech and Phenomenafollows Husserl’s attempt to isolate pure expression, free from all indicative functions, in the monologue of solitary discourse. According to Husserl, even when I talk to myself there is no genuine communication and thus no indication: I merely imagine or represent myself as speaking and communicating. This is Derrida’s opportunity to investigate the role of representation in language. “Representation” has a variety of senses, and Derrida argues that through all the registers of its meaning, the “fundamental distinction between reality and representation” cannot be drawn, since in language it is impossible to distinguish them....

    • Chapter 6 “Signs and the Blink of an Eye”
      (pp. 97-110)

      The title of chapter 5 means, in the first instance, “Signs and the Moment,” the moment in which the self is present to itself in absolute proximity. But Derrida will try to show that this moment is theblinkof an eye, not its glance, as the German termAugenblickwould suggest. It is the instantaneous moment of the blink, which closes the eye, not the glance, which opens up a field of vision. This moment of the blink, of absence, will turn out to be the condition of possibility of presence itself, the very “origin” of presence. Everything depends...

    • Chapter 7 “The Voice that Keeps Silence”
      (pp. 111-128)

      In chapter 6 ofSpeech and Phenomenamost of the threads that have been prepared in the previous chapters flow together in a dense tapestry in which each thread is intricately intertwined with all the others. Keeping the various strands clear is a difficult but crucial job.

      As we have seen, Husserl attempts to delimit expression in two directions. In the first place, he distinguishes expression from indication, arguing that while the two functions are interwoven in communication, we find the expressive function without the indicative function in soliloquy. In the second place, he distinguishes logical meaning as expression from...

    • Chapter 8 “The Supplement of Origin”
      (pp. 129-144)

      The final chapter ofSpeech and Phenomenacontains a complex argument. In the first place, Derrida argues that expression not only (as Husserl sees) does not require fulfillment in order to exercise its meaning function, but essentially involves a lack of fulfillment.¹ The very structure of Husserl’s pure grammar shows that meaning excludes intuition, the presence of the object meant. This would be true even for words such as “I,” which means that the meaningfulness of my own utterances requires my own absence or death. Since writing is defined as those signs that function even in the absence of the...

  7. Part II. The Myth of Phonocentrism:: Of Grammatology
    • Chapter 9 Aristotle
      (pp. 147-151)

      In the Exergue toOf Grammatology, Derrida begins by calling the reader’s attention tologocentrism, which he defines as “the metaphysics of phonetic writing” (OG, 11/3). The term “logocentrism” clearly bears a great burden inOf Grammatology. Derrida gives three dimensions of this burden: (1) The phonetization of writing, which has often enough been hailed as a great advance of civilization, “must dissimulate its own history as it is produced” (OG, 11/3), thus bearing the dark side of dissimulation as the condition of its own apparent worth. (2) Metaphysics finds the origin of truth in thelogos, that is, in...

    • Chapter 10 Saussure
      (pp. 152-166)

      The deconstructive reading of Ferdinand de Saussure’sCours de la linguistique généraleplays a crucial role inOf Grammatology, for in Saussure Derrida thinks that he can attack “the entire uncritical tradition which [Saussure] inherits” (OG, 67/46). If it can be shown that Saussure’s work is governed by a “coherence of desire producing itself in a near-oneiric way . . . through a contradictory logic,” this will “already give us the assured means of broaching the deconstruction of thegreatest totality—the concept of theepistēmēand logocentric metaphysics—within which are produced, without ever posing the radical question of...

  8. Conclusion: The Rigor and Ethics of Reading
    (pp. 167-180)

    We have seen in the Introduction that Derrida’s deconstructive approach to philosophical texts presents the critical reader with what appears to be a dilemma: a critical reading might seem to be committed to the very ideals of truth, rigor, and epistemic accountability deconstructed by the texts that are to be subjected to a critical reading. But this dilemma is simply a reflection of the task that deconstruction sets for itself, namely, that of subjecting itself to what Derrida calls the “classical norms” (OG, 8/lxxxix) even as it deconstructs the metaphysical underpinning of those very norms. Derrida thus insists “that within...

  9. Signature
    (pp. 181-184)

    Derrida has an undeniable talent for putting—or at least seeming to put—his pen on important and difficult issues, and for doing so in ways that, at least on first reading, seem to be both enlightening and troubling. In addition, there can be no doubt that Derrida can be a penetrating reader: his work on the poetry of Paul Celan in "Shibboleth" (Derrida 1986a) and on Francis Ponge inSignéponge(Derrida 1984c) are ample proof of this. While both of these, and especially the latter, are quite clearly performances in their own right, one rarely has the sense that...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 185-192)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-200)
  12. Index
    (pp. 201-206)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-207)