Saturday, July 23, 2005

On the Death of Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida probably had as great an impact on my generation as any other philosopher, so much so that to be confused by Derrida is probably the uniting experience of every English major under the age of 40. Recently in a moment of clarity I revisited some of his insights and felt like I was understanding the sage of the left bank for the first time. I believe that the essence of Derrida's philosophy is that life and language are a continual surprise to all parties: speaker and hearer, writer and reader. Nobody will ever have the last word, and we should thank God for that, because it is in God's wake that language, the life-blood of humanity, may truly flourish. Writing, like life, is permeated by unmet expectations, imperfections, surprises, and unfinished endings, little deaths all. Although Derrida never carried out the political implications of his work, it is easy to translate his work into a call for the revival of public discourse. If Derrida is right then no command and no order can be fully authorized because no voice is fully authoritative. Any interrogation can itself be interrogated. The supposedly seamless walls of the totalitarian state (and that includes the "invisible state" of capitalism) must crack from the pressure of language which continually sows the seeds of revolution. That is the power of difference, and it must always have the victory in the end.

1 comment:

Isabella di Pesto said...

Under 40? You're wiser than 70 year old sages.