Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was a French philosopher, recognized as one of the most influential in the structuralist and poststructuralist tradition that has been part of contemporary Western philosophy. He is, among other things, the founder of “deconstruction”, a way of critically analyzing the literary organization of texts and philosophy, as well as the political organization of institutions.
In this article we will see developed the biography of Jacques Derrida, One of the most influential philosophers of literary and political theory and criticism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Jacques Derrida: biography of an influential contemporary philosopher
Jacques Derrida was born July 15, 1930 in El Biar, Algeria, Which at the time was a French colony. Son of Judeo-Spanish parents and educated in the French tradition very early on.
In 1949, after World War II, he attempted to enter the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. But it was not until 1952 that he entered it, after having repeated the entrance exam for the second time. It was formed in an intellectual climate where many of the most representative philosophers of the twentieth century were on the rise. For example, Deleuze, Foucault, Barthes, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Lyotard, Althusser, Lacan, Ricœur, Lévi-Strauss or Levinas.
Derrida worked very closely with some of them and also remained critical of several of his proposals. For example, he did important readings on the works of Levinas and Michel Foucault, which he criticized for his interpretation of Descartes.
He also developed his work into what he was the century of the development and rise of phenomenology. Derrida was trained very close to his greatest representative, Edmund Husserl. Later one specialized in the philosophy of Hegel along with Jean Hyppolite and Maurice de Gandillac, of the hand of which realized a thesis of doctorate in 1953 on “The ideality of the literary object”.
In the following years, his work became very large and complex, as he taught philosophy at the Sorbonne from 1960 to 1964, when start writing and publishing numerous articles and books which deal with quite diverse subjects.
Later, he also taught at his anima mater, at the École Normale Supérieure and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, all in Paris. He has also been a visiting professor at various universities around the world, including Yale University and the University of California.
Deconstruction and meaning
Jacques Derrida is recognized among others for having developed “deconstruction”, which refers to a fairly complex act whose interpretation and applications can be very different, and which nevertheless marked the philosophical production of a large part of the 19th and 20th centuries. century.
Broadly speaking, Derrida uses deconstruction to critically examine the conceptual paradigms upon which Western society has relied from the earliest days of Greek philosophy to the present day.
These paradigms are heavily loaded with a particular element: the dichotomies (hierarchical oppositions between two concepts), which have generated binary thoughts and understandings on the phenomena of the world and on human beings. In addition, they have also generated forms of identification and construction of certain subjectivities.
Being hierarchical oppositions, they have the consequence that we understand one of the two phenomena of the dichotomy as the primary phenomenon, or the fundamental phenomenon, and the second as a derivative. For example, what happens in the classic distinction between mind and body; nature and culture; the literal and the metaphorical, among many others.
Thanks to deconstruction, Derrida made the path visible and operational. what philosophy, science, art or politics have emerged as a result of these oppositions, Which, among other things, had effects on the subjective level, on experience and on social organization.
And he made it visible and operational mainly through examine the contradictions and tensions between these hierarchies (Whether presented explicitly or implicitly), as well as the analysis of its consequences in terms of meaning construction.
What follows precisely from this is the suggestion that the paradigms on which our societies have been founded are neither natural, nor immutable, nor necessary in themselves; but they are a product or a construction.
Literary criticism and text analysis
As Derrida develops this from literary criticism, deconstruction is initially applied to text analysis. An example is the opposition between speech and writing, where speech is understood as the main and most authentic element. Derrida shows that in speech there is the same composition that is traditionally associated with writing, as well as the possibility of misunderstanding.
When revealing the constraccidiciones in the structure of the composition, is the impossibility of creating primordial terms, And therefore hierarchical, with which there may be a possibility of restructuring.
For Derrida, the meaning of a word is a function that takes place in the contrast shown by relating it to another. It follows that the meaning is never fully revealed to us, nor “really”, as if the word itself were the object it names in itself. Rather, they are meanings that we share after a long and endless chain of contrasting meanings.
- Encyclopedia Britannica (2018). Jacques Derrida. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed June 26, 2018. Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacques-Derrida.
- Lawlor, L. (2018). Jacques Derrida. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed June 26, 2018. Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/derrida/.