This book explores the language and arguments Jacques Derrida uses in his writings, and how this is at the core of his work. Marian Hobson explores the French language in which Derrida's philosophy is written in, and the ways his ideas are organized, to suggest that this has an overriding affect on how his translated work affects our understanding of his thought.
This piece asks a simple question, one simply obvious after the New York Times obituary of Jacques Derrida: how is it, why is it, that his work has been attacked in act and in words? And why more violently than the other great contemporaries of that period, of whom only Kristeva is still alive: Deleuze, Foucault, Lyotard, Lacan? It tries out various possibilities: envy, power struggles among various intellectual groupings of the same generation, the location of philosophy in the present (...) tree of knowledge, to conclude that the particularizing feature of his work which sparked such aggressivity may be his use of language. (shrink)
The article begins by examining two arguments used by Derrida in work published in 1967. The first claims against Lévi-Strauss that an empirical pattern of events cannot be injected into or superimposed onto an historical pattern claiming universality, for then there can be no disconfirmation of what is said. (This argument is used against Marxian history by some who write in the wake of Existentialism, Paul Roubiczek for instance.) The second claims against Foucault that he does not distinguish between reason (...) as part of thinking and language and reason as an empirical historical structure capable of modification along time. The article then discusses the use of very similar if not identical arguments in Derrida’s much more recent work on laws, Force of law. The intelligibility, the interpretability, of laws and their history comes after the laws, not before, and is thus not fully universalisable. (shrink)
Derrida thematises his writing through a change of perspective which moves from very detailed examination of an argument to more general statements. This paper is a consideration of how Derrida anchors his close attention to the detail of an argument in a wider philosophical-historical and indeed social framework. In this paper, the word in question is ‘freedom’, discussed with the philosopher and psychoanalyst Elisabeth Roudinesco; this paper moves back chronologically to Force of Law, and finally to a passage in Of (...) Grammatology to demonstrate that in Derrida's work from early to late there is a web of reflection about freedom. (shrink)
Derrida's first book-length work, _The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy_, was originally written as a dissertation for his _diplôme d'études supérieures_ in 1953 and 1954. Surveying Husserl's major works on phenomenology, Derrida reveals what he sees as an internal tension in Husserl's central notion of genesis, and gives us our first glimpse into the concerns and frustrations that would later lead Derrida to abandon phenomenology and develop his now famous method of deconstruction. For Derrida, the problem of genesis in (...) Husserl's philosophy is that both temporality and meaning must be generated by prior acts of the transcendental subject, but transcendental subjectivity must itself be constituted by an act of genesis. Hence, the notion of genesis in the phenomenological sense underlies both temporality and atemporality, history and philosophy, resulting in a tension that Derrida sees as ultimately unresolvable yet central to the practice of phenomenology. Ten years later, Derrida moved away from phenomenology entirely, arguing in his introduction to Husserl's posthumously published _Origin of Geometry_ and his own _Speech and Phenomena_ that the phenomenological project has neither resolved this tension nor expressly worked with it. _The Problem of Genesis_ complements these other works, showing the development of Derrida's approach to phenomenology as well as documenting the state of phenomenological thought in France during a particularly fertile period, when Levinas, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, and Tran-Duc-Thao, as well as Derrida, were all working through it. But the book is most important in allowing us to follow Derrida's own development as a philosopher by tracing the roots of his later work in deconstruction to these early critical reflections on Husserl's phenomenology. "A dissertation is not merely a prerequisite for an academic job. It may set the stage for a scholar's life project. So, the doctoral dissertations of Max Weber and Jacques Derrida, never before available in English, may be of more than passing interest. In June, the University of Chicago Press will publish Mr. Derrida's dissertation, _The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy_, which the French philosopher wrote in 1953-54 as a doctoral student, and which did not appear in French until 1990. From the start, Mr Derrida displayed his inventive linguistic style and flouting of convention."—Danny Postel, _Chronicle of Higher Education _. (shrink)
In _Jacques Derrida: Opening Lines_, Marian Hobson gives us a thorough and elegant analysis of this controversial and seminal contemporary thinker. Looking closely at the language and the construction of some of Derrida's philosophy, Hobson suggests the way he writes, indeed the fact he writes in another language, affects how he can be understood by English speakers. This superb study on the question of language will make illuminating reading for anyone studying or engaged with Derrida's philosophy.
Starting with a very brief account of the way language's relation to music was conceived before the nineteenth century, Malcolm Bowie's relation to music is considered by close textual analysis of two passages from his work on Mallarmé. I argue that it is through reference to music that Bowie is able to suggest non-closure even in Mallarmé’s use of the archetypal closed form, the sonnet; and through reference to music that Mallarmé’s non-trivial triviality can be handled in a new way. (...) Bowie doesn't posture or postulate through a dialectics, nor stay still by stationary even-handedness. In his way of writing, the reader is neither fired up nor sedated: he or she has to react to muted mini-dramas, which break out in each sentence but which are contained in a clearly directed tone of scholarly criticism. (shrink)
Derrida, for reasons which he never made clear publicly, published his mémoire for the diplôme d'études supérieures only in 1990, some thirty-five years after it had been written. Had it been published much earlier, some of the dispiritingly ill-informed remarks about his work might have been avoided. The mémoire, entitled The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy, reveals that he is, when required, perfectly able to write a standard thesis in straightforward French. And that, in particular, he is aware of (...) the work of the great logician Gottlob Frege in its relation to Husserl. (shrink)
De son vivant comme après sa mort, Diderot a été accusé de manque de suite dans les idées. Jean-Claude Bourdin, refusant de lui accorder l’épithète de ‘sceptique’, a suggéré que l’insécurité et le questionnement ne seraient pas la marque de sa philosophie, qui est matérialiste, mais tiendraient à sa manière d’écrire. Pourtant ces caractéristiques portent également une signification philosophique parfaitement cohérente : le temps serait irréel, au sens philosophique ; nous ne pourrions jamais justifier un propos sur le passé sans (...) comprendre ce qui le justifie dans notre présent ; quant à l’avenir, ce propos est perpétuellement incomplet. Dès lors, tout est toujours susceptible de corrections. Ainsi, le « scepticisme » de Diderot est à comprendre comme anti-réaliste, en s'appuyant sur les travaux de Dummett et de Bourdin.Both during his life and after his death, Diderot was accused of being illogical. Jean-Claude Bourdin refuses to call him a « sceptic » and suggests that the hesitations and questionings that have given rise to this epithet characterize in fact only his manner of writing, and not the content of his philosophy, which is materialist. However, these characteristics have a philosophical meaning which is not at all illogical : time is unreal, in the philosophical sense ; we can never justify a statement about the past without understanding what there is in our present which justifies it ; and our statements about the future are perpetually incomplete and hence always subject to revision. Thus, the « scepticism » of Diderot needs to be understood in the light of the work of Dummett and Bourdin and as an anti-realism. (shrink)
Malcolm MacNaughtan Bowie, a Fellow of the British Academy, was appointed from an assistant lectureship at the University of East Anglia to one in the University of Cambridge in 1969. At Cambridge, he worked as a specialist in difficult poets in French beginning with ‘M’, particularly Henri Michaux and Stephane Mallarmé. These are writers of involuted complexity, to read whom both a sensitivity to how word play plays and to how French prosody in poetry or prose works were essential. These (...) studies by Bowie were followed by work on mind-altering psychoanalysis: on Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. He was the first director of the Romance Languages Institute, ran its vigorous seminar programme, and gave this a strong international profile by his invitations. At the University of Oxford, Bowie set up the European Humanities Research Centre, followed by an associated publishing venture, Legenda. (shrink)