You may or may not be aware that the philosopher Jacques Derrida died last week. If I’m honest, I didn’t blog this event sooner to avoid unintentionally revealing a lack of comprehension of the subject if my text underwent too thorough an analysis – unlike some other blogs. Thankfully the Guardian has asked a few better known thinkers, and others, for their opinions on the controversial philosopher and his work.Favourite comments from the article:
“Derrida defies summary. He investigates the different ways in which attempts to simplify and summarise ideas are, in fact, a betrayal of the true complexity of things. He stands, rather like a Wittgenstein or perhaps Freud, as an example of a thinker who has made it his business to tell us that things are more complicated than we trust them to be.” – Alain de Botton, writer.
“He’s difficult to summarise because it’s nonsense. He argues that the meaning of a sign is never revealed in the sign but deferred indefinitely, and that a sign only means something by virtue of its difference form something else. For Derrida, there is no such thing as meaning – it always eludes us and therefore anything goes.” – Roger Scruton, philosopher.
“British trained philosophers like myself don’t know much about Derrida, though that doesn’t stop some of them dismissing him. I don’t dismiss him, but nor do I know enough to be able to sum him up.” – Julian Baggini, editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine.
“Derrida’s philosophy derives from the fact that being manifests itself through difference. His writing largely consists of carefully unpicking all attempts to deny this differentiation. Most importantly, he deconstructed that philosophical tradition which appealed to speech as a source of unmediated being.” – Colin McCabe, professor of English at Exeter University.
“The core of Derrida’s thinking is that every text contains multiple meanings. To read is neither to know nor to understand, but to begin a process of exploration that is essential to comprehend oneself and society. This is, however, the sort of pretentious bullshit language a minister for Europe can only use when speaking French.” – Denis McShane, minister for Europe.
“Can I pass on that? Not my sort of thing I’m afraid.” – Michael Holroyd, writer and biography.
“Who? I don’t know who you are talking about? I’m in a meeting with a group of City luminaries and none of them has heard of him. I can Google him for you if you are having difficulties.” – Ivan Massow, former chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
The Guardian’s official obituary of Jacques Derrida can be found here.