Deconstruction for Dummies

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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2008 10:10 pm
Ok, so on my spare time away from work, play, and "sleep", I've been trying to understand what Deconstruction is. Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology and is inaudible, and this means that distinguishing between them actually requires the written. ... Derrida can simply point out that there is often, and perhaps even always, this type of ambiguity in the spoken word - as compared to How to do Deconstruction




First, one identifies a binary pair, like black=white, man=woman, subject=object, etc. Then one reverses or deconstructs it, like black is a variation of white, man makes sense when contrasted with woman, subject cannot exist without an object, etc. Deconstruction "'deconstructs' the underlying hierarchy. For example:
  • Our sense of Pooh books is derived from the movies,

  • Batman is a special kind of villain called a vigilante

  • Men's sense of their intelligence is dependent on a belief that women are bimbos

  • "Cowboy heroism" cannot exist without "bad Indians."
Notice how these statements cripple the underlying hierarchy by "deconstructing" the opposition that it depends on. Deconstruction doesn't simply reverse the opposition, nor does it destroy it. Instead it demonstrates its inherent instability. It takes it apart from within, and without putting some new, more stable opposition in its place. If you want to really mess with something, deconstruct it."

Ok, that's all fine and good, but how does this help us, philosophers and society in general? Can we say, rationality is a form of irrationality that is ordered? Or love is a special kind of hate? Or guilty is an abnormal form of innocent? Or understanding life is dependent on death?
What can we learn from this?
 
DrZoidberg phil
 
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2008 04:38 am
@Victor Eremita,
I think all your points are valid. What we gain from applying deconstructionalism is the question, "what is this relative to and how is it effected by it".

Derrida puts his finger on problems that might be unsolvable... but that doesn't mean rejecting deconstructionism is a valid solution. A pretty logical philosophical model with nifty mathematical proofs thrown in is not enough.

The annoying thing about it is that it hardly makes life any easier. Just saying its relative is not staying true to post-modernism.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2008 04:37 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
. . . what Deconstruction is. Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology was impenetrable, so I'm looking at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia; . . .

Smile
Do not look in encyclopedias of philosophy. Do not read about Derrida. Read Derrida. Here's what is happening: Fuzzy sets happen when the law of contradiction is suspended. Also known as the law of the excluded middle. Kant said that the syllogisms are useless but we have to know them. The real world, however you might appear in it, does not believe in the law of contradiction and that makes Hegel, rather than the final word and final nail in the coffin of philosophy, a somewhat entertaining and popular lecturer and to be studied by historians.

But, repealing the law leaves one hovering in empty space and time without the motive power of reason, so Derrida built this fantastic system of talking all around the topic (including language itself that shall soon fall into disuse) without talking about the topic so we eventually know all about the topic. But, don't read this either; instead read Derrida wherever he appears.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2008 06:32 pm
@Victor Eremita,
If you want to understand Deconstruction in philosophy, perhaps you should look at deconstruction in the other arts, particularly literature.

From the little I've studied on the topic, it seems that it is heavily focused on the meaning of words and things. One saying from deconstrucitonists is that a sentence means something different to every person who reads it, thus no one will ever truly understand what is written. For example, if I write the sentence: "I love my wife", there is no possible way you can know what I mean when I use the word "love". You can have an idea, but it will never be the same meaning and you will never fully understand what I am trying to say.

However, spoken word is closer to the true meaning because of the little nuances in language. For example, if I can say the phrase "That bastard, I'm going to kill him" in a either a sarcastic way or a vengeful way and from the little intonations in my voice, you will be able to better able to understand what I mean. Now, I know that context in writing does fill in for the lack of intonation, but it still is not the same.

A consequence of this is that words themselves cannot have meaning, since everyone understands a word differently. And since language is the foundation for our knowledge, knowledge becomes relative.

Just some thoughts.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 4 Oct, 2008 02:35 am
@Victor Eremita,
Really nice thread, and memory-jogger. Thanks.

ON DECONSTRUCTION
Victor Eremita wrote:
Ok, that's all fine and good, but how does this help us, philosophers and society in general?


I think we use this all the time (most profusely in philosophy although not so exclusively). As a matter of fact, many of the "Yea, but isn't <yada> really our way of <yada>..."-type responses I see here on the forum are a form of deconstruction as one person refutes/fleshes out a point made by another.

I must admit to some measure of egotistical-frustration to this, when someone uses this form of argument on what I've said; yet, I can't deny the value therein.

ORAL OR WRITTEN?

Interesting questions/points on this. I personally hadn't given it much thought; however, I think an oral response/statement will generally be more genuine while the written word is generally more perspicuous. Which medium is preferred, would necessarily depend on whether perpiscuity or unscripted honesty is preferred.

Thanks
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sat 4 Oct, 2008 09:39 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
If you want to understand Deconstruction in philosophy, perhaps you should look at deconstruction in the other arts, particularly literature. . .

Smile
Very dangerous since literary criticism has totally missed the point of Deconstructionism and is merely Hegelism. Hegeleanism. Watch the Aufhebung and there it is: Hegel.
 
Robert Drane
 
Reply Wed 8 Oct, 2008 06:51 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:

A consequence of this is that words themselves cannot have meaning, since everyone understands a word differently. And since language is the foundation for our knowledge, knowledge becomes relative.


Not sure the consequence is that words "cannot" have meaning. This forum would be pointless if that were the case, and so would your argument. But they're not. You have a point. It's not that words are meaningless, but that they are polysemous - freighted with all sorts of meanings. The context of this forum does, in fact, make your post meaningful, and the meaning is generally agreed. On here, we all negotiate meaning, and all meaning is probably negotiated meaning. If your post suddenly bobbed up on a tennis forum, or a science forum, your words would be considered random and they'd create bewilderment - not a bad outcome, mind you!
 
matty phil
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 08:53 am
@Robert Drane,
I think the original post is a very telling attempt to engage with deconstruction in that it seeks to establish what a deconstruction is or does when in fact, for Derrida at least, deconstruction is what happens to a "text" - that is to say, it cannot be forced into taking place. This is why Derrida was very uncomfortable about the way in which the term deconstruction was taken up by others and turned into a set of guidelines for analysis or critique (we might call this deconstructionism).

One way to understand this could well be through Simon Critchley's description (in The Ethics of Deconstruction) of the process of what he calls " reading", which is a double reading that seeks both to remain faithful to the source text while at the same time offering a radical engagement with its ideas (the word refers to the so-called "closure of metaphysics" which Derrida sought to expose as the moment when seemingly transcendental philosophies revealed themselves for the duplicities they inevitably were). Critchley's approach also draws on Derrida's engagement with Emmanuel Levinas and his ethical philosophy of the Self-Other relationship (intersubjectivity), which in textual terms can be seen as the distinction between "the Saying and the Said" (hence the necessity of a double reading).

Consideration of would also be valuable here, but I am thinking about that in a different context so I will leave that aside for now on the proviso that I shall return to it later. However, just to say that the French term exists no more in French than might the transliteration differance in English (hence why Derrida said it is not a word or a concept as such), other than in reference to the double meaning (and again, double reading) of the French verb as both difference in space (difference) and time (deferral). The point being that it does not function in language in the same way as the distinction between whether and weather suggested by the original poster - i.e. it is not simply a question of determination.

Regarding presence, and specifically the relationship between speech and writing, it is commonly accepted that Derrida sought to undermine what he called "the metaphysics of presence" - the privileging of the present as the source of intended meaning. In a certain sense this is quite correct, in that Derrida emphasised that language is only capable of functioning on the basis of the traces of difference-deferral which he called differance. The essential point is that the "metaphysical" approach is inescapable because we always have to use language and therefore are "always already" destined to mis-speak. However, while this can be taken to suggest Derrida's privileging of writing over speech, nothing could be further from the truth (in fact, many of Derrida's "writings" began as oral disputations); rather, in Derrida's philosophy speech and writing are conjoined twins, thoroughly inseparable from one another without an act of extreme violence (hence his abiding interest in literature, which is a sort of middle ground between speech and writing).

So, to conclude briefly, Derrida's philosophy does undermine concepts such as truth and presence as they are traditionally understood within the philosophical canon, but not by dissolving them into a facile relativism. Indeed, Derrida counsels a philosophy of affirmation rather than negation, an openness to possibilities and not a closing down of boundaries.

Hope that helps!
 
matty phil
 
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 06:07 am
@Victor Eremita,
A very informative article which I stumbled upon today:

Deconstruction
 
matty phil
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 04:17 pm
@matty phil,
Some extended musings on "differance":

Derrudition: Differance

:Glasses:
 
ejones4uoregon
 
Reply Mon 8 Jun, 2009 02:52 pm
@matty phil,
Matty,
I appreciate your posts on Derrida and would urge anyone who feels dissatisfied by them, by the way in which a "deconstruction for dummies", or a "method of deconstruction" should not be attempted by readers of Derrida, for this is precisely his critique on epistemological metaphysics which begin with presence, or seek to discover the origin of presence, whereby DifferAnce is what makes presence the constitution of both non-presence and presence. Sheesh, writing this after its been a while since reading Derrida assures me that I still remember the great difficulty of reading his work, as even being able to write such a mystical, contradictory sentence, and feeling satisfied by it, can only be the result of a struggle with Derrida. I find the whole thread of this post to be microcosm of his Grammatology. I think this would please him. To give up on a "method" for deconstruction, which is admittedly a great temptation, as if it were a rosseta stone, is the first step to seeing Derrida at play. Anyone read Derrida's later political stuff as a result of his relationship to Habermaas? I have read Grammatology, Limited inc, and Speech and Phenomena. Joining this site has reminded me how fun it is to read Derrida's writing.
 
pagan
 
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 03:10 pm
@ejones4uoregon,
i think all this is really tricky.

For me deconstruction is a kind of reminder of what we had to forget in order to listen/read someone. But it is also a reminder that the person speaking had to forget in order to speak/write. Or as McLuhan puts it "the medium is the message". Writing is different to speech. That bit often has to be forgotten for us to concentrate on what is being communicated, or more accurately what we think is being communicated. In forgetting we risk not noticing the characteristics included and not included in either form and how this affects what is written and read. But we have to forget.

It follows from this that we cannot communicate completely, either as speakers, readers, writers or listeners. Moreover the media we use is also something we forget, like handwriting compared to typing, telephone as compared to face to face speech, news article as compared to tv bulletin.

In addition there is the style employed, such as in academic texts, something which i understand derrida tried playfully and seriously to signal. There is also forgetting as in what is not even attempted to be said ie editing.

Even further there is also re writing or re interpreting what is said by using 'subversive' means to remind us of the narrative drive behind communication.

All this is not to undermine communication, but to remind us of the many ways in which it is incomplete. Further that it is necessarily incomplete because deconstruction cannot lead to rewriting of a text such that it cannot be deconstructed.

Have i missed something :perplexed:
 
pagan
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 09:35 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;20824 wrote:

Ok, that's all fine and good, but how does this help us, philosophers and society in general? Can we say, rationality is a form of irrationality that is ordered? Or love is a special kind of hate? Or guilty is an abnormal form of innocent? Or understanding life is dependent on death?
What can we learn from this?


i think we learn from this that language and narrative and media are necessarily incomplete in understanding and conveying reality. For me that was a profound shift in my life. I changed from searching for a grand narrative to live my life by to searching for multi narratives to live my life by. Which is tantamount to recognising an intrinsic limitation of being human. It gives clues as to the nature of ourselves and our relationship to each other and the world around us.

Ironically this isn't a purely negative realisation. The abandonment of a search for perfection, 'the truth', actually gives rise to freedom and new possibilities. For sure there may be a sense of loss and confusion too. Fear has to be accepted with such a radical disappointment, but the realisation that we were trying to reach the impossible dream with a rickety ladder is also the realisation that we were kidding ourselves anyway.

Having said that, i think it also reveals that accepting multi narratives overtly was actually not so different to what we were really trying to do before, because we constantly had to turn a blind eye to living that way even in denial. Everybody does it anyway ..... whether we strongly dislike it or not. But that doesn't stop many of us trying to reject post modernism (and multi culturalism?). It is a tendency of being human at times to believe in the truth and tradition. We gain by recognising that in ourselves and others because it is a strong force ............ and often a very creative one as well as destructive.

Personally i don't see anything wrong in principle in slipping back into grand narrative belief. I just have a tendency to notice it, not least because i came across the likes of post modernism and buddhism, and i am a practicing pagan.
 
Arif phil
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 03:54 am
@pagan,
I started a thread in the ethics forum "Should we punish a person for suicide attempt?". Let's see how it can be deconstructed.
http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/ethics/5383-should-we-punish-person-suicide-attempt.html#post80893
Sorry for diverting the thread. I just felt to place the thread in the right place.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 01:13 pm
@Arif phil,
I have a question. If the very existence of such an act as deconstructing a text exists, then how could it be possible to deconstruct objective truths?

How could there be moral absolutes?
 
pagan
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 01:59 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;80967 wrote:
I have a question. If the very existence of such an act as deconstructing a text exists, then how could it be possible to deconstruct objective truths?

How could there be moral absolutes?



hi holiday

.... well that depends upon whether you feel objective truths and moral absolutes are capable of being encapsulated by texts completely and unambiguously.

deconstruction is a text thing (or language/narrative thing generally). Not the thing that the text refers to. Although that is open to analysis, experience and intuition generally.

It is sometimes argued, even by those who believe in objective truths and moral absolutes, that they are intrinsically linked to a text/language/narrative. eg the word of god or the language of mathematics and the scientific method. That link is for personal belief and philosophical discussion me thinks Smile But personally i don't think it conclusive.

I do feel however that deconstruction can give valuable insights into the way morality, law and truth is expressed and practiced.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 02:39 pm
@matty phil,
matty;32894 wrote:
A very informative article which I stumbled upon today:

Deconstruction


Nice article Matty. Thanks. There are a couple of ideas in the article that I found particularly illuminating:

1) Deconstruction questions the thesis, theme, the positionality of everything. . .

2) ... but to show its necessary incompleteness.

That is, everything is always in flux and changing. To be comfortable with this notion, I think one has to embrace that there is likely no center, no truth, but rather a continuous exploration of what is. Uncomfortable for some, but something that I am quite a ease with.

Rich
 
pagan
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 07:50 am
@richrf,
hi rich


Quote:
1) Deconstruction questions the thesis, theme, the positionality of everything. . .

2) ... but to show its necessary incompleteness.
i think deconstruction can lead to that point of view, but not necessarily. "everything"? Surely "every person" is more accurate.

Falconer clearly states that we percieve objects themselves. e.g....

Quote:
To perceive an object is to know immediately that there is always more to be said. All experience is experience of more, of possibility.
presumably he is talking about experiencing objects. But there are of course narratives whereby we are not said to experience or percieve objects themselves, but rather other things like light or neural activity, which were induced by the objects 'out there'. From that perspective deconstruction applies to 'in here' and not necessarily 'out there'. The language and narrative being 'in here' also by the internal narrative of inference.

Where it becomes interesting is when what is internal becomes externalised, through media, language and culture. eg a pyramid, a movie, a bill of rights. ie. Man made objects. These are open to deconstruction, and as such are physically manifest as 'out there' according to the objective narrative, but that is not to deconstruct the objective world generally within this position, but only those phenomena that can be re-internalised in linguistic or narrative form.

The point i am trying to make is that the objective world narrative does not necessarily disintegrate under deconstruction. It is challenged..... and effectively so from my own personal point of view. But i recognise that there are leaps of intuition, new curiousity and faith in shifting my position. Just as i recognise the same for those that try to hold to the underlying truths of a grand narrative.
Quote:

Falconer-
Deconstructive criticism is not intended to suggest a way to make the book finally complete, but to show its necessary incompleteness. Deconstruction is used to show that a work does not adequately address something, not that it should have.
to which i would add .... "AND not that it shouldn't have."

Incompleteness of a narrative through language and media may be accepted as a fact of life AND that the narrative is worth developing and living by, above all other narratives, despite its necessary incompleteness.

Quote:
richrf - I think one has to embrace that there is likely no center, no truth, but rather a continuous exploration of what is.
That is an emminently respectful point of view, but i don't believe it necessarily follows from deconstruction. In particular i interpret you as meaning there is no 'the truth'...... by which i would agree with you if you mean that the truth does not exist because it is a language narrative and form and through deconstruction i agree all such forms are necessarily incomplete. Which is a contradiction to the rational common meaning of the truth. ie how can 'the truth' be incomplete?

But there are other interpretations of 'the truth' such as i mentioned earlier, ie in the respect of 'the best grand narrative of all', despite incompleteness.

I don't think this is a fine point of interpretation, because faced with deconstruction although i like yourself move toward a multi narrative approach (which often implies fluidity) ......nevertheless i recognise that the adherence to a grand narrative like christianity or materialistic atheism is still a sensible choice faced with incompleteness of narrative language forms.

In fact the rejection of deconstruction itself and reverting back to 'i see the world as it is not as it is interpreted' is hardly completely daft, since we all (like falconer) slip naturally back into believing we see objects themselves. (whether we express it in a text or otherwise).
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 08:49 am
@pagan,
Hi pagan,

pagan;81077 wrote:
i think deconstruction can lead to that point of view, but not necessarily. "everything"? Surely "every person" is more accurate.


I cannot speak directly to the meaning of the statement, since everything can be questioned. Smile However, I take the statement as is, and I would say it applies to everything.

Quote:
Falconer clearly states that we perceive objects themselves. e.g....


One question that might follow is: what does it mean to perceive?


Quote:
From that perspective deconstruction applies to 'in here' and not necessarily 'out there'. The language and narrative being 'in here' also by the internal narrative of inference.


Yes, there may be different narratives from different points of view. All can be questioned.

Quote:
Where it becomes interesting is when what is internal becomes externalised, through media, language and culture. eg a pyramid, a movie, a bill of rights. ie.


We might first question whether there is an internal vs. and external. It might, for example, be a continuum. For example: I sense it here but I see it there.


Quote:
Man made objects. These are open to deconstruction,


Probably everything is open to questioning.

Quote:
The point i am trying to make is that the objective world narrative does not necessarily disintegrate under deconstruction. It is challenged..... and effectively so from my own personal point of view.


The objective world narrative is a point of view. It can be questioned one one who holds that point of view or one that is exploring it. One question follows another.

Quote:
Incompleteness of a narrative through language and media may be accepted as a fact of life AND that the narrative is worth developing and living by, above all other narratives, despite its necessary incompleteness.


Yes, it is a matter of comfort. If one holds an objective world. That is no problem. However, if one wishes to force that objective world onto someone else (as is almost always the case with objectivism, since holding the Truth is the key differentiator), then we have conflict - which is also no problem, since it seems to be inherent in the world.

Quote:
That is an emminently respectful point of view, but i don't believe it necessarily follows from deconstruction. In particular i interpret you as meaning there is no 'the truth'...... by which i would agree with you if you mean that the truth does not exist because it is a language narrative and form and through deconstruction i agree all such forms are necessarily incomplete. Which is a contradiction to the rational common meaning of the truth. ie how can 'the truth' be incomplete?


Truth can be simply a another concept, another word with different meanings for different people. It seems to be as evasive as anything else that I have come across. Is it here? Is it there? Like playing a game of hide-and-seek.

Quote:
But there are other interpretations of 'the truth' such as i mentioned earlier, ie in the respect of 'the best grand narrative of all', despite incompleteness.


Yes, there are as many interpretations of truth as there are people who have knowledge of it. For some, it keeps the hunt going, like the Holy Grail. But whether or not it is necessary, I don't know.

Quote:
nevertheless i recognise that the adherence to a grand narrative like christianity or materialistic atheism is still a sensible choice faced with incompleteness of narrative language forms.


Yes, one can adopt whichever narrative they wish. It can be questioned by self or others. The questioning is always there and appears to keep going on and on and on - even within the most dogmatic narratives. There is always questioning. The changes in one's own narrative can be embraced or it can make one queasy. It is a matter of how one reacts.

Quote:
In fact the rejection of deconstruction itself and reverting back to 'i see the world as it is not as it is interpreted' is hardly completely daft, since we all (like falconer) slip naturally back into believing we see objects themselves. (whether we express it in a text or otherwise).


Yes, we are all experiencing. But the question is what? And so it goes.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Rich
 
bartese
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 06:30 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio;26596 wrote:
If you want to understand Deconstruction in philosophy, perhaps you should look at deconstruction in the other arts, particularly literature.

From the little I've studied on the topic, it seems that it is heavily focused on the meaning of words and things. One saying from deconstrucitonists is that a sentence means something different to every person who reads it, thus no one will ever truly understand what is written. For example, if I write the sentence: "I love my wife", there is no possible way you can know what I mean when I use the word "love". You can have an idea, but it will never be the same meaning and you will never fully understand what I am trying to say.

However, spoken word is closer to the true meaning because of the little nuances in language. For example, if I can say the phrase "That bastard, I'm going to kill him" in a either a sarcastic way or a vengeful way and from the little intonations in my voice, you will be able to better able to understand what I mean. Now, I know that context in writing does fill in for the lack of intonation, but it still is not the same.

A consequence of this is that words themselves cannot have meaning, since everyone understands a word differently. And since language is the foundation for our knowledge, knowledge becomes relative.

Just some thoughts.

This is interesting -- but mostly insofar as the positions you describe are exactly the opposite of what deconstructionists argue. Smile

For a poststructuralist like Derrida, for instance, it is impossible for meaning to be subjective, as you suggest -- because what gives an iteration meaning is totally impersonal, not dependent on the individual at all. The historical-linguistic network that gives an iteration meaning -- language -- is a system you are "born into," according to deconstruction -- not something unique to each individual.

And the priority you give to speech over writing above is exactly the opposite argument D makes in his seminal poststructuralist writing (De la Grammatologie).
 
 

 
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