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TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY: Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes

TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY: Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes. LECTURES. The limits of language. Death and authenticity. The great society. Making differences. Social hope. Communicative rationality. MAKING DIFFERENCES. 1. DECONSTRUCTIVISM How to read this world?

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TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY: Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes

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  1. TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY: Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes

  2. LECTURES • The limits of language. • Death and authenticity. • The great society. • Making differences. • Social hope. • Communicative rationality.


  4. 1. DECONSTRUCTIVISM How to read this world? 2. HEARING AND SEEING Why should one make a difference? 3. JUSTICE AND FORGIVENESS Is there a match between the conditional and the unconditional?


  6. PROPER NAMES AND METAPHORS • Ludwig Wittgenstein draws the attention on the fact that the meaning of a word depends on its use in specific language-games. • Especially if one focuses on the meaning of proper names and metaphors it is fruitful to study language-games. • Proper names > words that seem to refer to a clear-cut object (for instance the word Auschwitz), but in fact don’t pinpoint its meaning. • Metaphors > literally they are not truth, but they have a meaning (for instance if someone says “René is a turtle!”).

  7. FILTERS AND BRIDGES • A metaphor fulfills at least two functions: 1. The function of a filter > due to a metaphor some things come to the fore and others will t ake a back seat. 2. The function of a bridge > a metaphor connects in a subtle way ‘is’ and ‘ought’, i.e. facts and values. • Dead metaphors > words wit a literal meaning. • Is it possible to reanimate them? • Or is it ridiculous to suppose that they can die? • Jacques Derrida raises these kind of questions.

  8. JACQUES DERRIDA BIOGRAPHICAL DATA: • 1930: Born July 15, in El-Bia (Algeria). • 1942: As Jew expelled from school. • 1952-1954: École Normale Superiéure. • 1967: An ‘annus mirabilis’ because of the publication of three influential books. • 1965-1984: Professor of the history of philosophy at the École Normale Superiéure. • 1982: One of the founders of the Collège Internationale de Philosophie. • 1983: Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études et Sciences Sociales. • 2001: Theodor W. Adorno Award. • 2002: A documentary on Derrida. • 2004: Died October 8, in Paris.

  9. MAJOR WORKS • De la grammatologie (1967). • La Voix et le phénomène (1967). • L’écriture et la différence (1967). • Marges – de la philosophie (1972). • Glas (1974). • La Carte postale. De Socrate à Freud et au-delà (1980). • Limited Inc (1990). • Sauf le nom (1993). • Les spectres de Marx (1993). • Force de loi. Le ‘Fondement mystique de l’autorité (1994). • Cosmopolites de tous les pays, encore un effort! (1997). • De l’hospitalité (1997). • Philosophy in a time of terror. Diaglogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (2003). • Rogues (2003).

  10. PHILOSOPHICAL STYLE • Derrida discusses a subject often indirectly and mixes genres. • His style is more evocative than argumentative and more circular than linear. • Examples: - Glas > two columns (Hegel and Genet). - La Carte postale > starts with love letters with no address. • Derrida wants to show the equivocality of a text.

  11. NOTHING OUTSIDE THE TEXT • One of the most famous sentences of Derrida: “There is nothing outside the text” (Il n’y pas de hors-texte). • Texts are in the broadest sense of the word meaningful units. • Derrida depicts paintings, buildings and institutions also as texts, i.e. as meaningful units. • The meaning is not inherent to the text, but the result of reading it. • If one reads a text anew, one puts it into another context. • By putting a text into new contexts Derrida wants to generate new meanings. • Dissemination (dissémination) > the process of dispersion in the course of which reading a text generates new meanings.

  12. REITERATION AND DECONSTRUCTION • Reiterate > putting (old) texts into new contexts. • Deconstructivism > a way of criticizing texts and institutions that is neither negative, nor positive. • Aim: to open texts up to alternative readings, i.e. to look for neglected elements in texts (especially the aporias). • Moral drive: to render justice and to prevent the use of violence. • A deconstruction is always an intervention that changes the one way or the other the object of research. • Derrida wants to subvert a text by showing its limits.

  13. A CRITIQUE OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY • Metaphysics is one of the main objects of Derrida’s criticism. • Philosophical activity: to subvert various binary oppositions that dominate different ways of thinking. • Binary oppositions reproduce hierarchies and forms of subordination. • An insistence upon the importance of the other, the marginal, that what is different.

  14. HEURISTIC VALUE • Literary theory (Paul de Man amongst others). • Feminism (Judith Butler amongst others). • Architecture (Frank Gehry amongst others). • Cultural studies (Stuart Hall amongst others). • Philosophy (Christophe Menke amongst others).


  16. THE WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORD • The most famous founding fathers of Christianity (Jezus) and philosophy (Socrates) have one thing in common > they have never written a single word. • Western culture > the denigration of the written word and the valorisation of the spoken word. • The spoken word > purity and authenticity. • Whereas the spoken word directly refers to mental experiences, the written word does that indirectly. • Presupposition of the Western culture > the spoken word is a symbol of mental experience and the written word is a symbol of the already existing symbol.

  17. SIGNS OF SIGNS • Derrida criticizes the metaphysical idea that symbols that are part of the written language are parasitic to the symbols that are part of the spoken language. • Logocentrism: metaphysics of the presence to oneself. • The written word is not a derivate of the spoken word. • “Writing is not a sign of a sign, except if one says it of all signs, which would be more profoundly true.” • Metaphysics freezes identities and doesn’t do justice to differences.

  18. IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE • The difference between différance and différence is inaudible. • If one wants distinguish différance and différence one needs the written world. • In order to do justice to the ambiguity that is inherent to the spoken word one has to analyze the written word. • That implies reading texts in different directions, i.e. looking for their traces.

  19. TRACES • Traces > signs that are present, but refer at the same time to what is not present. • Derrida: “The (pure) trace is the différance.” • Deconstructivism traces the relations between signs that are present and those that are not. • To trace something means showing the aporias > irresolvable contradictions that cannot be reconciled. • Example: the aporia of love. • If a person asks why he or she loves someone, he or she can give two kinds of answers that are not compatible.



  22. THE DECONSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE • Justice can not be grasped, i.e. objectified. • One can only speak in an indirect way about justice. • The aporia of law and justice > fixed rules versus unfixed morality. • The general and the particular > application of the law to concrete issues. • Justice as a deconstruction of law > show what particularly cannot be subsumed under a general judicial norm.

  23. MESSIANISM • Messianism > stories about the arrival of a hero (the Messiah) in the future. • The transfiguration of utopia. • There is often no clear description of the hero that will come. • Central question: does the hero really comes? • Deconstruct various messianisms. • There is no identifiable other.

  24. THE UNFORGIVABLE • Truth and reconciliation commissions > about forgiveness. • Derrida argues that forgiveness isn’t and shouldn’t be normal. • The impossibility: forgiving something that cannot be forgiven. • Derrida: “If one is only prepared to forgive what appears forgivable, what the church calls ‘venial sin’, then the very idea of forgiveness would disappear. If there is something to forgive, it would be what in religious language is called mortal sin, the worst, the unforgivable crime or harm. From which comes the aporia, which can be described in its dry and implacable formality, without mercy: forgiveness forgives only the unforgivable.” • The state cannot organize in a proper way the reconciliation.

  25. PLURALITY • Because of globalisation and migration more people live in a plural world with different lifestyles and religions. • Two reactions: 1. Intolerance, xenophobia, racism. 2. Tolerance, xenophilia, respectful integration of the other.

  26. ANTISEMITISM • Derrida was a victim of anti-Semitism. • He lost his citizenship rights during the Second World War and had to leave the public school. • Relation between anti-Semitism and deconstructivism > the fixation of a collective identity trigger people to oversee differences. • A deconstruction of such a collective identity creates space for the non-identical.

  27. HOSPITALITY • The fixation of a collective identity frustrates the hospitality towards strangers. • Derrida > hospitality is only possible when strangers are recognized in their irreducible difference. • Two forms of hospitality. 1. Pure form of hospitality: unconditional acceptance of the stranger. 2. Impure form of hospitality: the stranger is only welcome when he accepts certain conditions. • Hospitality has to be realized.

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