Archive for the 'Derrida' Category

Logocentrism in 19th Century European Thought

In his seminal work Of Grammatology Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) breaks down the idea of logocentrism within European philosophical thought:

Within this age of metaphysics, between Descartes and Hegel, Rousseau is undoubtedly the only one or the first one to make a theme or a system of the reduction of writing profoundly implied by the entire age.  He repeats the inaugural movement of the Phaedurs and of De interpretatione but starts from a new model of presence: the subject’s self-presence within consciousness or feeling.  What he excluded more violently than others must, of course, have fascinated and tormented him more than it did others.  Descartes had driven out the sign–and particularly the written sign–from the cogito and from clear and distinct evidence; the latter being the very presence of the idea of the soul, the sign was an accessory abandoned in the region of the senses and the imagination.  Hegel reappropriates the sensible sign to the movement of the Idea.  He criticizes Leibniz and praises phonetic writing within the horizon of an absolutely self-present logos, remaining close t itself within the unity of its speech and its concept.  But neither Descartes nor Hegel grappled with the problem of writing.  The place of this combat and crisis is called the eighteenth century.  Not only because it restores the rights of sensibility, the imagination, and the sign, but because attempts of the Leibnizian type had opened a breach within logocentric security.  We must bring to light what it was that, right from the start, within these attempts at a universal characteristic, limited the power and extent of the breakthrough.  Before Hegel and in explicit terms, Rousseau condemned the universal characteristic; not  because of the theological foundation which ordained its possibility for the infinite understanding of logos of God, but because it seemed to suspend the voice.  “Through” this condemnation can be read the most energetic eighteenth-century reaction organizing the defense of phonologism and of logocentric metaphysics.  What threatens is indeed writing.  It is not an accidental and haphazard threat; it reconciles within a single historical system the projects of pasigraphy, the discovery of non-European scripts, or at any rate the massive progress of the techniques and deciphering, and finally the idea of a general science of language and writing.  Against all of these prussures, a battle is then declared.  “Hegelianism” will be its finest scar (98-9, bold mine).


Derrida, Jacques.  1997.  Of Grammatology.  Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.  Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.


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.


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