The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy

By Kevin Hart | Go to book overview
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The status of

1 Problems of definition

While Derrida allows metaphysics to have a far wider scope than any other philosopher, even Heidegger, he also claims to have recognised a region which is other than metaphysics, in which it is inscribed, and from which it can be analysed. This is not to say that this region is located entirely outside or beyond metaphysics, for deconstruction is concerned to mark limits, not ends. We can look at this situation from opposing sides. From the one viewpoint, metaphysics has neither a simple exterior nor a pure interior; the Utopia of pure grammatology and the equable realm of idealism are equally foreign places to Derrida. Yet it can also be seen that any critique of metaphysics must maintain a tacit relationship with what it interrogates: the 'other' of metaphysics cannot be 'wholly other'. And thus arises the question of the status of deconstruction. I have already used deconstruction to uncover several difficulties with metaphysical theology and to suggest how, in general terms, we can develop a coherent non-metaphysical theology. But before we make use of these conclusions it seems we must take a step back and enquire more thoroughly as to the relation between metaphysics and deconstruction. I shall therefore once more pose the question, 'What is deconstruction?'

Strictly speaking, we should be wary of using the singular at this stage of our enquiry, for it is by no means self-evident that 'deconstruction' is univocal. I have observed how various commentators have misused the word 'deconstruction' or misconstrued the concept 'deconstruction', and part of the problem is that Derrida allows a certain elasticity to the word. Deconstruction, he once remarked to Lucien Goldmann, 'is simply a question of (and this is a necessity of criticism in the


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The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy


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