'Bedingungen der moeglichkeit und unmoeglichkeit': Wittgenstein, Heidegger und Derrida

Denis McManus
University of Southampton
'Conditions of Possibility and Impossibility': Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Derrida Derrida’s writings expose ways in which philosophical texts presuppose distinctions that they are also determined to ignore. Such a dependency might be thought to undermine those texts, replacing what they take to be fundamental with deeper, unacknowledged foundations. Yet Derrida maintains that there is no simple undermining in the offing and that the structures he identifies are not to be understood as ‘supra-transcendentals’ to philosophy's ‘transcendentals’. This paper identifies a context within which Derrida might be seen as operating and, on that basis, articulates two possible readings of his work. The first takes Derrida to be engaging in a powerfully tempting line of thought whose roots lie in Heidegger and of which the work of Wittgenstein provides a critique. The second takes Derrida to be engaging instead in a form of reflection akin to that of Wittgenstein, revealing confused analogies that provide philosophical texts with the illusion of content and their distinctive pseudo-logic. I take as an illustrative case Derrida‘s early discussion of Aristotle on time; I compare Derrida’s analysis of how Aristotle comes to formulate what appears to be an essential truth about time with the early Wittgenstein’s reflections on how superficial analogies between different forms of discourse suggest that we have a grasp of what we come to see as ‘ontological categories’. The strengths and weaknesses of the two readings are evaluated
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