Jacques Derrida 1930-2004
Jacques Derrida, probably one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, died on friday from pancreatic cancer, age 74. He leaves behind a family and an immensely interesting body of work which I have only just begun to look at.
Derrida invented the method (which he always insisted wasn't a method) of deconstructivism, thus coining one of the most misused phrases in academics and elsewhere. I even heard the phrase used the other day in a movie supposedly set in the 16th century .
I'm not going to get into a discussion of deconstruction, because I don't know enough about it, other than to say I think it's one of the most fruitful and constructive ways of thinking I know of, and just the ticket for these times, where words and ideas seem to have more power than ever. I can't really think of a school of though which I would rather have gain support in the world today.
He was simultaneously one of the most cherished and despised philosophers, as his obituaries seem to demonstrate: one, in the Guardian was measured and praising; the other, in the NY Times was abrasive and, in my opinion, silly under a pretense of being fair. At the end, it seems to fault Derrida for saying we don't know that we don't know what we are talking about when we talk about September 11th. And while I know that we don't know etc, most people seem not to. Anybody thinking Derrida wrong can just have a look at the heady, not quite laser-guided precision of electoral rhetoric in the US of A. A huge, glaring bulls-eye for deconstruction if ever I saw one. It practically deconstructs itself. All it needs is a little push.
I just started reading Derrida's "Memoirs - for Paul De Man" a couple of days ago, and now his words, a eulogy for a dead friend, seem to take on a double meaning, a double sadness.