not nearly as funny as rodney but just as dead.
- dave 10-09-2004 8:48 pm

phew i though shecky green had died.
- bill 10-09-2004 8:50 pm [add a comment]

Your strikethrough--is it a cancellation of the sign, or the sign itself? Does it serve a grammatalogical function, as kind of shifter? &etc
- tom moody 10-09-2004 8:57 pm [add a comment]

woods lot has a number articles by and about derrida.

and its like a coming out party for philosophy blogs everywhere. i have no doubt they are the next new new thing in blogdom. just be sure you bring enough metaphysics for everyone.
- dave 10-10-2004 4:18 pm [add a comment]

- dave 10-10-2004 4:29 pm [add a comment]

What Derrida Really Meant

NYT Published: October 14, 2004

long with Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, who died last week in Paris at the age of 74, will be remembered as one of the three most important philosophers of the 20th century. No thinker in the last 100 years had a greater impact than he did on people in more fields and different disciplines. Philosophers, theologians, literary and art critics, psychologists, historians, writers, artists, legal scholars and even architects have found in his writings resources for insights that have led to an extraordinary revival of the arts and humanities during the past four decades. And no thinker has been more deeply misunderstood.

To people addicted to sound bites and overnight polls, Mr. Derrida's works seem hopelessly obscure. It is undeniable that they cannot be easily summarized or reduced to one-liners. The obscurity of his writing, however, does not conceal a code that can be cracked, but reflects the density and complexity characteristic of all great works of philosophy, literature and art. Like good French wine, his works age well. The more one lingers with them, the more they reveal about our world and ourselves.

What makes Mr. Derrida's work so significant is the way he brought insights of major philosophers, writers, artists and theologians to bear on problems of urgent contemporary interest. Most of his infamously demanding texts consist of careful interpretations of canonical writers in the Western philosophical, literary and artistic traditions - from Plato to Joyce. By reading familiar works against the grain, he disclosed concealed meanings that created new possibilities for imaginative expression.

Mr. Derrida's name is most closely associated with the often cited but rarely understood term "deconstruction." Initially formulated to define a strategy for interpreting sophisticated written and visual works, deconstruction has entered everyday language. When responsibly understood, the implications of deconstruction are quite different from the misleading clichés often used to describe a process of dismantling or taking things apart. The guiding insight of deconstruction is that every structure - be it literary, psychological, social, economic, political or religious - that organizes our experience is constituted and maintained through acts of exclusion. In the process of creating something, something else inevitably gets left out.

These exclusive structures can become repressive - and that repression comes with consequences. In a manner reminiscent of Freud, Mr. Derrida insists that what is repressed does not disappear but always returns to unsettle every construction, no matter how secure it seems. As an Algerian Jew writing in France during the postwar years in the wake of totalitarianism on the right (fascism) as well as the left (Stalinism), Mr. Derrida understood all too well the danger of beliefs and ideologies that divide the world into diametrical opposites: right or left, red or blue, good or evil, for us or against us. He showed how these repressive structures, which grew directly out of the Western intellectual and cultural tradition, threatened to return with devastating consequences. By struggling to find ways to overcome patterns that exclude the differences that make life worth living, he developed a vision that is consistently ethical.

And yet, supporters on the left and critics on the right have misunderstood this vision. Many of Mr. Derrida's most influential followers appropriated his analyses of marginal writers, works and cultures as well as his emphasis on the importance of preserving differences and respecting others to forge an identity politics that divides the world between the very oppositions that it was Mr. Derrida's mission to undo: black and white, men and women, gay and straight. Betraying Mr. Derrida's insights by creating a culture of political correctness, his self-styled supporters fueled the culture wars that have been raging for more than two decades and continue to frame political debate.

To his critics, Mr. Derrida appeared to be a pernicious nihilist who threatened the very foundation of Western society and culture. By insisting that truth and absolute value cannot be known with certainty, his detractors argue, he undercut the very possibility of moral judgment. To follow Mr. Derrida, they maintain, is to start down the slippery slope of skepticism and relativism that inevitably leaves us powerless to act responsibly.

This is an important criticism that requires a careful response. Like Kant, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Mr. Derrida does argue that transparent truth and absolute values elude our grasp. This does not mean, however, that we must forsake the cognitive categories and moral principles without which we cannot live: equality and justice, generosity and friendship. Rather, it is necessary to recognize the unavoidable limitations and inherent contradictions in the ideas and norms that guide our actions, and do so in a way that keeps them open to constant questioning and continual revision. There can be no ethical action without critical reflection.

During the last decade of his life, Mr. Derrida became preoccupied with religion and it is in this area that his contribution might well be most significant for our time. He understood that religion is impossible without uncertainty. Whether conceived of as Yahweh, as the father of Jesus Christ, or as Allah, God can never be fully known or adequately represented by imperfect human beings.

And yet, we live in an age when major conflicts are shaped by people who claim to know, for certain, that God is on their side. Mr. Derrida reminded us that religion does not always give clear meaning, purpose and certainty by providing secure foundations. To the contrary, the great religious traditions are profoundly disturbing because they all call certainty and security into question. Belief not tempered by doubt poses a mortal danger.

As the process of globalization draws us ever closer in networks of communication and exchange, there is an understandable longing for simplicity, clarity and certainty. This desire is responsible, in large measure, for the rise of cultural conservatism and religious fundamentalism - in this country and around the world. True believers of every stripe - Muslim, Jewish and Christian - cling to beliefs that, Mr. Derrida warns, threaten to tear apart our world.

Fortunately, he also taught us that the alternative to blind belief is not simply unbelief but a different kind of belief - one that embraces uncertainty and enables us to respect others whom we do not understand. In a complex world, wisdom is knowing what we don't know so that we can keep the future open.

In the two decades I knew Mr. Derrida, we had many meetings and exchanges. In conversation, he listened carefully and responded helpfully to questions whether posed by undergraduates or colleagues. As a teacher, he gave freely of his time to several generations of students.

But small things are the measure of the man. In 1986, my family and I were in Paris and Mr. Derrida invited us to dinner at his house in the suburbs 20 miles away. He insisted on picking us up at our hotel, and when we arrived at his home he presented our children with carnival masks. At 2 a.m., he drove us back to the city. In later years, when my son and daughter were writing college papers on his work, he sent them letters and postcards of encouragement as well as signed copies of several of his books. Jacques Derrida wrote eloquently about the gift of friendship but in these quiet gestures - gestures that served to forge connections among individuals across their differences - we see deconstruction in action.

Mark C. Taylor, a professor of the humanities at Williams College and a visiting professor of architecture and religion at Columbia, is the author, most recently, of "Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption."

- bill 10-14-2004 4:28 pm [add a comment]

So after the NYT's predictably francophobic obit villifies the man &about 5000 heavyweight profs freakout they publish this OP-ED piece of feelgood fluff my ass... yer initial nitwit dismissal of his death
belies yer actuality Bilbo. Oooh, let's compare him to wine, professer of architecture AND religion; architecture AND religion in a world without redemption FUCK. Just what is the last word in shame. If he had his way he'd tear both those buildings down.
- Bin Laden in China (guest) 10-18-2004 8:51 am [add a comment]

dude if your going to critique peoples posts here your going to need to build some sort of credibility. so far your running a serious deficit and because of that your shit doesnt stick to the wall. while we're at it heres (5¢), buy a sense of humor too.
- bill 10-18-2004 6:58 pm [add a comment]

  • Wilbur Wilbur Wilbur, will you help me be the builder incredible.My shit don't need to stinks just fine here at the bottom of the bucket. Don't you get it yet ? I'm just lookin' for a fight...Frank likes to fuck shit up. As far as my sense of humor goes well I already told you my only two jokes...Darwin, Freud, Picasso, Schonberg did the deconstuction long before Saussure & Derrida got around to harping but they weren't French enough for the Bohemian Seacoast Set. Writing IS sentences & I've yet to see one from you but it's the New York Times I really can't stand. IRRegardless, I was elated to get yer peanut although isn't feeding the animals forbidden at this petting zoo? Look at this way, yer not half as lame as Tom & he supposedly reads!Still, I'm just another sad & lonley guy happy to be alienating everybody so long as someone notices. Thanks fer noticing.Now can we be friends again.

    - Dick Sleazic (guest) 10-18-2004 10:30 pm [add a comment] [edit]

  • ok hugo first
    - bill 10-18-2004 10:57 pm [add a comment]

  • Bill, I'm getting pretty good at eyeballing these posts and seeing who they're by without reading them.
    - tom moody 10-18-2004 11:35 pm [add a comment]

Bill, the Times got criticized for calling Derrida abstruse in its obit headline, and I think this editorial was a way of making amends (or throwing a bone to influential academics). "Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida: the three most important 20th Century philosophers" is a thesis topic that reads like a TV news headline. It's like, all three must be continental philosphers, and we need one post-structuralist. So Derrida edges out Foucault and Lyotard because D. just died. The piece attempts to humanize him and make him warm and fuzzy for Times readers, with all that talk about religion. The description of deconstruction mutes its dark side: as I understand it, Derrida was saying all sentences were hegemonic, i.e. territory conquering--Taylor softpedals that as "working by exclusion." The conclusion is we don't use "grammatically correct," tightly-constructed sentences to study sentences, we play complex, punning language games that tease out their biases and inadequacies, which Derrida could apparently do well but not everyone has a gift for. The result is legions of mediocre sub-Derridas ensconced in college departments, making students hate reading. That's one reason Derrida's death is a charged issue.
- tom moody 10-18-2004 7:48 pm [add a comment]

The Onion headline mirrors dave's:

Jacques Derrida 'Dies'

- tom moody 10-23-2004 4:02 am [add a comment]

always a little fuzzy on single quote usage.

In the United States, we use single quotation marks [ ‘ ’ ] to enclose quoted material (or the titles of poems, stories, articles) within other quoted material:

"'Design' is my favorite poem," he said.
"Did she ask, 'What's going on?'"
Ralph Ellison recalls the Golden Age of Jazz this way: "It was itself a texture of fragments, repetitive, nervous, not fully formed; its melodic lines underground, secret and taunting; its riffs jeering—'Salt peanuts! Salt peanuts!'"
British practice, again, is quite different. In fact, single-quote marks and double-quote marks are apt to be reversed in usage. Instructors in the U.S. should probably take this into account when reading papers submitted by students who have gone to school in other parts of the globe.

In newspapers, single quotation marks are used in headlines where double quotation marks would otherwise appear.

Congress Cries 'Shame!'

One further use, according to the Chicago Manual of Style: in philosophical discourse, key concepts may be set apart with single-quote marks. When such concepts are set off in this way, periods and commas go outside the single-quote marks:

Sartre's treatment of 'being', as opposed to his treatment of 'non-being', has been thoroughly described in Kaufmann's book.

- dave 10-23-2004 4:11 am [add a comment]

I used the single quote because I lazily cut-and-pasted it from the Onion. The correct usage would be:

The Onion headline mirrors dave's: "Jacques Derrida 'Dies'."

since it's a quote, not a headline. But it kind of blows the joke to add the extra quotes (and would probably be correct to put the period inside both the single and double close quote, blowing the joke even further).
- tom moody 10-23-2004 4:21 am [add a comment]

thats what im going to say if someone asks why i dont use proper punctuation. its just not funny.
- dave 10-23-2004 6:38 am [add a comment]

what about all the incorrect usage of body language 'two-finger' quoting? How can we stop the gestural grammatical mayhem?
- sally mckay 10-25-2004 8:04 pm [add a comment]

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