Archive for the 'Deconstructionism' Category

Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy

Photo by James Andanson (Apis/Sygma/Corbis).

Christina Howell‘s writes about Sartre‘s place in contemporary philosophy:

Not only did Sartre’s critics of the sixties and seventies attempt, unwittingly perhaps, to fossilize him in the classical works he had himself by then outgrown, but they did not accord those works themselves a fair reading.  The decentered subject, the rejection of a metaphysics of presence, the critique of bourgeois humanism and individualism, the conception of the reader as producer of the text’s multiple meaning, the recognition of language and thought structures as masters rather than mastered in most acts of discourse and thinking, a materialist philosophy of history as detotalized and fragmented, these are not the inventions of Lacan, Foucault, Levi-Strauss and Derrida; nor are they to be found merely in Sartre’s latter works such as the Critique (1960), Words (1966) or the Idiot of the Family (1971-1972) where it could be argued that they should be attributed to his receptivity to the major trends of his age (though the Critique of Dialectical Reason would still predate most of the French Structuralists’ major works).  The notions are, rather, present from the outset: in the Transcendence of the Ego (1936), in Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions (1940), in Nausea (1941), in Being and Nothingness (1943), and even in his most polemical theoretical work, What is Literature? (1948).  This preoccupation with the deconstruction as well as the reconstruction of the human is also to be found in the posthumously published works…(Howells, 2)

I cover some of these early writings by Sartre in a podcast with xmabaitx.


Howells, Christina.  “Introdcution.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Sartre, edited by Christina Howells, 1-9.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Derrida on the Turn(Trick)/Trick(Turn) of Writing

Of Grammatology

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), in his seminal work Of Grammatology wrote:

Language is a structure-a system of oppositions of places and values-and an oriented structure.  Let us rather say, only half in jest, that its orientation is a disorientation.  One will be able to call it a polarization.  Orientation gives direction to movement by relating it to its origin as to its dawning.  And it is starting from the light of origin that one thinks of the West, the end and the fall, cadence or check, death or night.  According to Rousseau, who appropriates here a most banal opposition from the seventeenth century, language turns, so to speak, as the earth turns.  Here neither the orient nor the occident is privileged.  The references are to the extremities of the axis around which the globe turns (polos, polein) and which is called the rational axis: The South Pole and the North Pole. (Derrida, 216)


Derrida, Jacques.  Of Grammatology.  Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.  Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Badiou on the Master-Signifier

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Slavoj Žižek, in his book Violence, writes about Badiou’s views of the Master-Signifier and postmodernism:

Alain Badiou develops the notion of “atonal” worlds-monde atone-which lack the intervention of a Master-Signifier to impose meaningful order onto the confused multiplicity of reality…

A basic feature of our postmodern world is that it tries to dispense with this agency of the ordering Master-Signifier: the complexity of the world needs to be asserted unconditionally.  Every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it must be deconstructed, dispersed: “the modern apology for the ‘complexity’ of the world…is really nothing but a generalized desire for atony.”  Badiou’s excellent example of such an “atonal” world is the politically correct vision of sexuality as promoted by gender studies with its obsessive rejection of binary logic: the world is a nuanced world of multiple sexual practices which tolerates no decision, no instance of the Two, no evaluation, in the strong Nietzschean sense of the term. (Žižek, 34-35)


Žižek, Slavoj.  Violence.  New York: Picador, 2008.


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