Derrida and Deconstruction

Derrida and Deconstruction

Derrida and Deconstruction

Derrida and Deconstruction

Synopsis

The effects of Derrida's writings have been widespread in literary circles, where they have transformed current work in literary theory. By contrast Derrida's philosophical writings--which deal with the whole range of western thought from Plato to Foucault--have not received adequate attention by philosophers. Organized around Derrida's readings of major figures in the history of philosophy, Derrida and Deconstruction focuses on and assesses his specifically philosophical contribution. Contemporary continental philosophers assess Derrida's account of philosophical tradition, with each contributor providing a critical study of Derrida's position on a philosopher she or he has already studied in depth These figures include Plato, Meister Eckhart, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Foucault.

Excerpt

John D. Caputo

Derrida himself has warned us that it is a mistake to confuse what he says about différance with some kind of negative theology—in particular with that of Meister Eckhart whom he mentions by name. I begin by endorsing and underlining that point which I take to be but the beginning, not the end, of the question about deconstruction and negative theology. I set out from there to defend what I call (borrowing an expression from Kierkegaard) the ‘armed neutrality’ of différance. Neutrality: it does not imply or exclude the existence or non-existence of any entity (it is ontically neutral). Armed: it is not particularly hospitable to existence claims but holds them all suspect. Because it is not a substantive position on its own but rather a parasitic practice, deconstruction has no ontological commitments. Thus while it would be comical to find a negative theology in deconstruction, it would not be at all surprising to find deconstruction in negative theology—as a practice, as a strategy, as a way that negative theologians have found to hold the claims of cataphatic theology at bay.

In the second part of the essay I turn to Meister Eckhart himself and I demonstrate the way he called upon a certain deconstructive practice in order to make medieval onto-theologic tremble. Then, in the third part, I argue that one finds in Eckhart a great disseminative energy aimed at promoting and enhancing the life of the spirit, a grammatological exuberance and joyful wisdom whose political subversiveness did not go unnoticed by the guardians of onto-theo-logic.

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