Derrida - The Ends of Man (The Self Under Siege, Lecture 7 of 8)

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This video is 7th in the 8-part video lecture series, The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1993).

Lecture Notes:

I. Richard Rorty may be viewed as an "Americanization" of Derrida: widely considered the postmodern thinkers (perhaps wrongly). Here we will use Rorty as a guide to Derrida.

II. Derrida's emphasis is on fallibility, contingency, finitude; positions partially demonized as relativism, deconstruction, and vaguely connected to radical politics, multi-culturalism, and so on.

III. "Deconstruction" originates in Heidegger's project of the deconstruction of metaphysics, an "uncovering" of the history of Being. Derrida notes, as he proceeds through a series of techniques of deconstruction as reading or misreadings of texts, that philosophers have always tried to fill in the blank in "Being is __________."

IV. But they have failed due to the nature of language which is constituted by difference, materiality of marks and phonetic signs, marginality, materiality. Words do not stand for things, they stand in for them.
Meanings depend not only on presence but also on absence. Words can always misrefer; a possibility once is a necessity forever.

V. The upshot is that there are no final interpretations, no last books. Better and worse readings depend on context and purpose. Meaning is not fixed "humanly" (against "humanism"). Philosophy has always already thought the end of man in thinking the truth of man.

VI. For Derrida, "man" is implicated in the "white mythology" that is philosophy and whose time is rapidly passing. This leaves the "self". the "I", as no more than a vanishing positionality in a text. And this is a long way from the kind of story that might provide us with meaning for our own lives.

VII. Finally, when reading Derrida, remember, he may just be joking. If he is right, even in part, the same might be said for Plato.

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