Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language

Timothy Attanucci
Maureen Chun
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Raoul Moati intervenes in the critical debate that divided two prominent philosophers in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, the British philosopher J. L. Austin advanced a theory of speech acts, or the "performative," that Jacques Derrida and John R. Searle interpreted in fundamentally different ways. Their disagreement centered on the issue of intentionality, which Derrida understood phenomenologically and Searle read pragmatically. The controversy had profound implications for the development of contemporary philosophy, which, Moati argues, can profit greatly by returning to this classic debate.

    In this book, Moati systematically replays the historical encounter between Austin, Derrida, and Searle and the disruption that caused the lasting break between Anglo-American language philosophy and continental traditions of phenomenology and its deconstruction. The key issue, Moati argues, is not whether "intentionality," a concept derived from Husserl's phenomenology, can or cannot be linked to Austin's speech-acts as defined in his groundbreakingHow to Do Things with Words, but rather the emphasis Searle placed on the performativity and determined pragmatic values of Austin's speech-acts, whereas Derrida insisted on the trace of writing behind every act of speech and the iterability of signs in different contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53717-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword: Per Formam Doni
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Jean-Michel Rabaté

    It seems that today, almost ten years after the untimely demise of Jacques Derrida, there are three main ways of approaching his impressive legacy. There is first of all the biographical approach. Since 2010, Benoît Peeters’s excellent biography has allowed us to reconsider Derrida’s oeuvre in light of his personality. What makes Peeters’s biography engaging and refreshing is that we discover a different Derrida, one who appears more driven, tormented, excessive, impassioned than a successful and charismatic world-renowned philosopher. We are surprised to see a neo-Romantic thinker whose vaunting narcissism had to be kept in check and whose power of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction: The Circumstances of an “Improbable” Debate
    (pp. 1-12)

    At the end of the 1970s, one of the most virulent philosophical disputes known to the contemporary history of ideas erupted between the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, founder of deconstruction, and John R. Searle, American analytic philosopher and theoretician of speech acts.

    The confrontation between two major representatives of contemporary philosophy belonging to divergent currents of thought is an event rare enough to arouse attention and awaken curiosity. The unexpected character of such a debate results from the fact that philosophy has rarely, before the twentieth century, appeared as profoundly split into two currents as divergent and irrelevant to each...

  6. 1 The Iterative as the Reverse Side of the Performative
    (pp. 13-74)

    “SEC” opens with an epigraph from Austin’sHow to Do Things with Words: “Still confining ourselves for simplicity tospokenutterance.”

    This reference/reverence to the Austinian text is surprising, considering the first lines of Derrida’s text: we observe that the topic broached by Derrida, if it approaches the problem of enunciation [énonciation],¹ is not entirely equivalent to it since Derrida proposes to takecommunicationas his object of analysis.

    We thus notice a slippage from the notion ofenunciationto the notion ofcommunication, which presents no small number of difficulties. The strangest point here is that such slippage finds...

  7. 2 Do Intentions Dissolve in Iteration? From Differance to the Dispute (Différend)
    (pp. 75-118)

    Searle begins his response to the first part of Derrida’s account by addressing two principal arguments that he believes are contained in “SEC”:

    (1) Writing continues to function in the radical absence of sender and receiver, and thus breaks with the logic of intended meaning and of the emission context.

    (2) Writing represents the privileged mode of operation for language, which takes as its condition of possibility the iterability of its elements.

    To start with, Searle takes care to challenge the argument according to which writing employs a mode of operation distinct from oral speech, sinceiterability is a constitutive...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 119-122)

    It is no small statement to affirm that the richness of this controversy makes ostensible not the insurmountable divergence of the continental and analytic traditions, but rather the wealth and diversity of the discussions of intentionality in the twentieth century.

    More than ever, the Derrida/Searle debate seems to lay out a framework for renewed reflection on this concept. “SEC” indeed proposes a neophenomenological interpretation of Austin. Rereading his theory of the performative in light of the Husserlian concept of intentionality as presence, Derrida can critique Austin, who in his view bases the success of the performative on intentional presence: for...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 123-132)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 133-138)