Jacques Derrida is ‘dead’ — deconstruction ‘lives’

Jacques Derrida, who did more than any man in history to turn mediocrities into tenured mediocrities, died Friday at age 74. Derrida is known as the father of Deconstruction. Deconstruction is a critical method in which written assertions and statements contain their opposites and much more. His insight, while trivially valid, and often useful as an analytical tool, has been taken to absurd extremes, even by Derrida himself.

In some ways, Derrida is the Falco or Norman Greenbaum of the academic world: a one-hit-wonder whose signature song has been covered by charlatans throughout the academic world, and is current being played for your kids for a fee of $40,000 a year at college. From the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Derrida was known as the father of deconstruction, the method of inquiry that asserted that all writing was full of confusion and contradiction, and that the author’s intent could not overcome the inherent contradictions of language itself, robbing texts – whether literature, history or philosophy – of truthfulness, absolute meaning and permanence. The concept was eventually applied to the whole gamut of arts and social sciences, including linguistics, anthropology, political science, even architecture….

Literary critics broke texts into isolated passages and phrases to find hidden meanings. Advocates of feminism, gay rights, and third-world causes embraced the method as an instrument to reveal the prejudices and inconsistencies of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Freud and other “dead white male” icons of Western culture. Architects and designers could claim to take a “deconstructionist” approach to buildings by abandoning traditional symmetry and creating zigzaggy, sometimes disquieting spaces. The filmmaker Woody Allen titled one of his movies “Deconstructing Harry,” to suggest that his protagonist could best be understood by breaking down and analyzing his neurotic contradictions.

Much of Deconstruction has taken the form of taking good writing and good thinking and translating them into gibberish.

The Sokal Hoax

In 1996 a physics professor at NYU, Allan Sokal, published a paper in the journal Social Text, called: “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Here’s part of what it said:

There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the “objective” procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

But deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics1; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility2; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of “objectivity”.3 It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical “reality”, no less than social “reality”, is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific “knowledge”, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities. These themes can be traced, despite some differences of emphasis, in Aronowitz’s analysis of the cultural fabric that produced quantum mechanics4; in Ross’ discussion of oppositional discourses in post-quantum science5; in Irigaray’s and Hayles’ exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics6; and in Harding’s comprehensive critique of the gender ideology underlying the natural sciences in general and physics in particular.7

No one figured out that Sokal was scamming them with this creative garbage until he told them. “Gender encoding in fluid mechanics,” indeed!

Blogosphere to Derrida & Associates: Bye-bye!

You have to be a really rich country to have the leisure time to swallow the gruel served up by Derrida and his acolytes. And the United States is a really rich country, 10-20x richer per capita than, say, Cuba, which many of Derrida’s adherents romanticize above the US. Of course America did not get to be so rich by sitting around debating this sort of flapdoodle. America got rich by getting off its duff and inventing 90% of everything ever invented, including the business system to support these amazing innovations — and all in a little more than a century.

The practitioners of Deconstruction are going to be in for a mighty big surprise over the next decade, courtesy of the blogosphere. Much of the rickety scaffolding of Deconstruction in the new navel-gazing departments at universities is based on flawed and dishonest history and scholarship — but held in place and supported on a foundation of political correctness. There is nothing the blogosphere likes better than exposing and highlighting dishonesty to the delight of an audience of millions. The corruption in the legacy Mainstream Media, Rathergate, and related scandals are just a warm-up act for what our universities have in store, as we have predicted previously.

5 Responses to “Jacques Derrida is ‘dead’ — deconstruction ‘lives’”

  1. fadia nassar Says:

    hi
    i am so admire with jack darida’s writings (text)..
    plz i want some of his text to read and analyise them
    thx

  2. John Wilson Says:

    “All your base are mine.”, Abu Derrida

  3. sadachaar Says:

    derrida is a hero of new thought in literary criticism, and he is a hero of my time. I’m proud of him.

  4. Ralph Westfall Says:

    Your article on Derrida demonstrates that the blogosphere uses “deconstruction,” in the best sense of the word, very effectively. It can also be used as a valid technique in academic research. Check out my article at http://projects.ischool.washington.edu/mcdonald/courses/imt546_au04/readings-11.13/westfall.pdf where I trash the wild claims about the economic benefits of telecommuting.

    Prof W

  5. doc molloy Says:

    As my old philosophy lecturer used to say about this nonsense.. The moon is made of green cheese. I understand what it means but it doesn’t make any sense.

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