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The End of an Earache

Avant-Garde French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, has finally been deconstructed:

Jacques Derrida, one of France’s most famous philosophers, has died at the age of 74.

Though to say that he has “died” is to, perhaps, impose a structural context defined by the ontology of Western metaphysics. In the grammatic, linguistic and rhetorical senses he has merely desedimented, dismantled and decomposed. Indeed, this is a grand narrative undoing in the egological, methodological and general sense, as opposed to a mere critique in the idiomatic or Kantian sense.

Er…or something.

32 comments to The End of an Earache

  • *applauds* Great post.

    The sad thing is that genuine philosophers may take many more decades to live down the reputation for vacuous nonsense that Derrida has given French philosophy by his fraud.

  • Peter

    From the famous letter protesting Cambridge’s extraordinary decision to grant Derri-la-de-da an honorary degree:

    “Many French philosophers see in M. Derrida only cause for silent embarrassment, his antics having contributed significantly to the widespread impression that contemporary French philosophy is little more than an object of ridicule.

    M. Derrida’s voluminous writings in our view stretch the normal forms of academic scholarship beyond recognition. Above all — as every reader can very easily establish for himself (and for this purpose any page will do) — his works employ a written style that defies comprehension.

    Many have been willing to give M. Derrida the benefit of the doubt, insisting that language of such depth and difficulty of interpretation must hide deep and subtle thoughts indeed.

    When the effort is made to penetrate it, however, it becomes clear, to us at least, that, where coherent assertions are being made at all, these are either false or trivial.

    Academic status based on what seems to us to be little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university.”

  • From the BBC report:

    Derrida also campaigned for the rights of immigrants in France, against apartheid in South Africa, and in support of dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia.

    It would have been nice to see them noting also that even in the last years of his life Derrida was penning apologetics for Nazi Paul De Mann, specifically denying any anti-Semitism in De Mann’s column for a National Socialist newspaper in 1940, where he said that ‘solving’ Europe’s “Jewish problem” would have no negative effect on the literary life of the continent.

  • Come on, David,

    welcoming a death of somebody just because he was silly is in poor taste.

  • Liz

    Ralf Goergens – I don’t see where David “welcomed” Derrida’s death.

    But I originally came to comment that this was the first blog post I’ve seen all day that’s made me laugh out loud, and to thank David for that, so that is what I shall do.

  • Liz,

    you are right, it was a poor choice of words (although “The End of an Earache”) sounds a bit like welcoming it.

    Anyway, I said have written “making fun of a person’s death”, or maybe “making fun of a person on the occasion of his death”.

  • Gordon

    The BBC credited him with being the father of Deconstructionism without mentioning that that word is the French translation of “abbau” invented by that Nazi jackanapes Martin Heidegger whose so called philosophy I once heard skillfully deconstructed by George Steiner

  • Jacob

    Mr Derrida is part of a very big and important 20th century movement: a nihilistic, destructive movement, a movement that promotes the senseless and absurd in literature and philosophy, and the ugly in the arts.
    It’s a war against reason and against beauty. It is the prevalent current of the 20th century.
    Here is hoping that the movement dies with him (though, of course he was by no means the only, or most important of it’s promoters).
    A longer obit in the NY Times.

  • Excellent post, David!

  • Best. Obituary. Ever.

    Thank you.

    But one thing still bothers me: How to deconstruct obituaries?

  • Ian

    Peter, you’re repeating idiotic comments about something you clearly know nothing about. De Man’s name was not “De Mann,” he was not a Nazi, and he did not say anything about ‘solving’ the ‘Jewish problem’: de Man wrote about that the state of European literature would not be diminished had there been no Jewish literature.

    A minor thing for a literary reviewer to say in a collaborationist newspaper, perhaps, but he hated himself for it and he later devoted a large chunk of his later work to Proust.

    You jump on the ‘de Man=Nazi’ bandwagon like so many bigoted marxists have done before you.

    If you knew anything about the subject, you would be attacking Heidegger’s record.

    Derrida, however, started off well with Husserl but then disappeared up his own arse.

  • Ralf, all – I agree. Welcoming someone’s death because he was silly, is in poor taste.

    Welcoming it because he was a source of much evil in society, however, is probably alright.

    While Derrida wasn’t quite as damaging as the likes of Gramsci or Marcuse, but he was the footman that helped provide their bad ideas with philosophical cover in the academy, the media and the law. While the neo-Marxists argued that we needed to privilege the fool over the wise mad, the lunatic over the sane, the criminal over the cop, Derrida laid the philosophical groundwork (now widely accepted in the academy) that all observations are subjective, a mere produce of perspective. Derrida attacked truth at its most fundamental level, not arguing that it didn’t exist, but arguing that it couldn’t because even if it did, there was no way to express it. Starting with Aristotle’s discussion of “strange words” and “familiar words” (the way a word spelled one way can mean different things at different times to different people) Derrida concluded that words had no fixed meaning. Sure, words have some play in them, but according to Derrida, if I say “stop” and to me it means “cease and desist” while to you it invokes the notion of traffic lights, then the concept of “stopping” cannot exist, and even if it did, there would be no way to communicate it. This laid the groundwork for the likes of Edward Said’s revisionism of middle eastern anthropology, for queer studies, for an intellectual revolution as shoddy as the would-be student revolution of ’68, and ultimately, for the binning of our Western cultural heritage. The ultimate conclusion of the coordinated assault on objective truth is the ipse dixit credo of the student revolutionary – that power is truth, and as long as I (the student revolutionary) am not in power, than what society says is “true” is false.

    In Derrida’s world, there can be no objective truth. Yes, this ignores the falsifiable fact that in the real physical world, chemical interactions and physics (and even sometimes math) do not work out precisely accurately, and that we accept “close enough” as true. What Derrida’s philosophy missed entirely, is that it ain’t a perfect world out there, and for all practical purposes, close is good enough. Sure, “stop” means different things to different people, but as long as we all have a notion of what it means, stop signs work well enough to keep the roads in order. Likewise, winners do sort of write the history books, but the only reason we can say that is that the underlying premise is that there is an objective truth out there, and the winners aren’t writing that truth into the history books. Without that premise of an objective truth, the whole argument fails. It’s that simple – there must be objective truth, or something quite like it, or nothing around us would work. Living in the margins of the meanings and connotations and play in words, Derrida was impossible to refute in argument – the word “is” doesn’t even always mean “is”, as we’ve found out in the last few years.

    Yep, the only way to defeat Derrida’s argument was to walk around the room, stub your toe, and wonder if there’s no such thing as objective truth, why you can’t wish away the hurt. That’s right – reality itself is the refutation to Derrida’s arguments.

    In the end, his death is the refutation of his life. What say you now, Jacques? Hmmm… nothing… I suppose some of your more fanatical worshipers in the academy may now wonder if you ever existed…

    Ultimately, not long after 9/11, Derrida apologized for the horror he had wrought. He stated in a lecture that he hadn’t meant for what he said to be taken seriously, he was just playing around. Evidently, the ramifications of having helped to destroy the West’s self-confidence were just starting to sink in, as he looked east and saw a rising Islamofascist tide. I won’t say that I hope he rots in hell for what he did – I wouldn’t wish that on him. But a few hundred millenia spent in purgatory pondering the error of his ways, and how his work served to rock the foundations out of the societal structures we rely on to stave off the bestial chaos of the natural order, would probably be in heaven’s best interest. Derrida spent his life tearing down those things that stand between us and disorder – the culture, the state, the church, and the timeless values that we in the west hold dear. Assuming there is an afterlife and it comes with perfect knowledge, as most Christian sects and many non-Christian sects hypothesize, it seems that spending a long time contemplating one’s own errors would be a most fitting punishment.

    In Derrida’s case, merely contemplating the fact that there is such as thing as an error, should be sufficient. And if there is such a thing as justice in the universe, it will be for a precise term of years, not one jot more, nor less. That alone will chafe him mercilessly.

  • Heidegger used abbau early on, then adopted destructure. Derrida used destructure in the early drafts of Of Grammatology, and then adopted deconstruction because he had extended the meaning beyond what Heidegger intended. Deconstuctionism is a term used by pretentious no nothings.

  • The notion that all observations are subjective is discussed in Plato’s dialogue Protagoras, named after the sophist that articulated them. Derrida had some original ideas, but understanding them calls for reading and thinking. Judging his contributions without the context of and understanding Plato, Aristotle and Heidegger is impossible.

    Let me make an analogy. Yelling and screaming in the stands is good fun, but it is the players on the pitch that score the goals.

  • Mace

    Funniest item I’ve read in a long time.


  • Julian Morrison

    Summary of why Derrida was bad: he helped make philosophers look like blind blabbering idiots. All of them, by association, even the good ones.

  • Al Maviva,

    great comment, thanks. Very informative.

  • Jacob

    “He stated in a lecture that he hadn’t meant for what he said to be taken seriously, he was just playing around.”

    Interesting, I always thought that some of the philosophers were just phonies, poseurs or charlatans.

  • Anointiata Delenda Est

    Excellent post.

    Al Maviva, you should write the book.

    enowing, what if the players on the pitch don’t score?

  • I gather its rather non-PC to deride Derrida. Personally I welcome it, funny post there David.

  • Ernie G

    The academic establishment may now be expected to ignore him, now that he has joined the despised and ignored ranks of the DWEMs.

  • Susan

    I think David’s post is hilarious as well. And great post too al-Maviva — sums up a lot of what I feel about 20th century po-mos like Derrida.

    Their relentless attack on our culture and our values, on the rule of law, on public sanity — for no good reason that I can see — all for whim, for fashion, for silly academic prizes and the best seat in a claustrophobic poseur salon.

    Not glad that Derrida’s dead, but I hope his most noxious ideas die a quick and ignoble death.


  • Brett

    He’s dead, Jim. – Dr. Leonard McCoy, Ship’s Coroner, USS Enterprise

  • so so funny. rolling on the floor.

  • Really funny! I guess language actually does mean something. Here are some other “eulogies”.

  • I would like to direct everyone to a place where you may solemnly reflect on the great things that Derrida has contributed to the world:


    – JML

  • A_t

    “in the real physical world, chemical interactions and physics (and even sometimes math) do not work out precisely accurately, and that we accept “close enough” as true.”

    I’ve yet to come across any maths that accepts ‘close enough’ to the required solution as true. If the problem was originally stated as “find a solution which is close enough within x tolerance”, then coming within that tolerance counts as a solution, but this is explicitly stated from the outset. Interaction with the real world usually spoils the purity of mathematical theories, so a ‘close enough’ condition generally has to be applied to any physical applications.

    I see philosophy as similar; the initial thinking can be abstract & precise as one is dealing with abstract notions within a formal structure of reasoning (hence why one can say ‘there is no absolute truth’; an interesting exercise for a start, & one should certainly question the basis of one’s theories from time to time; find out if the foundations are strong), but obviously when it comes to interacting with the real world, one recognises that most people’s interpretations of ‘stop’ are close enough to be compatible. This doesn’t disprove the initial proposition or make it worthless as a tool for analysis any more than the lack of imaginary numbers in the real world, despite them being very useful in analysing a variety of real situations (and I’d argue that for every ‘stop’ over which there is common understanding within a certain context, there are many for which you will find numerous interpretations; imaginary numbers appearing in the real world!).

    Whether the idea is in any way useful or insightful however, is another matter entirely.

    Having said all that, the original post made me grin 🙂

  • Joel Català

    Undoubtedly, Mr. Derrida deserved the title of

    Illustrious Super Excellent Doctor of the Symbolic Valley of the Incommunicable Name


    …not really.

    [1]: Outcome I obtained using the web-based “Pretentious Title Generator“.

  • Derrida is simply a modern example of the banality of evil. He did not order the watchmen from the walls of civilization. He did not do murder with his hands. He simply waged an “intellectual” war on reason, in his own words, “to play around”. He wanted a good job and a little fun watching the faces of young people when he turned their perceptions of reality on its head.

    He was meant to be an intellectual stage magician, who committed the worst crime someone in his position could, he pretended what he did was not illusion.

    His crimes are reckoned in counts of bodies that cannot be made without first eschewing his “philosophies”. It is not possible to even know how much atrocity might have been prevented had those who, but for him would have seen more clearly, made better choices and decisions. He could not touch first rate minds. The greatest intellects are not susceptible to such deceptions, but in his hands, the “line intellectuals”, the grade school and high school teachers, and teaching school professors, were marched into the hands of Marcuse and his ilk.

    Today, at every major University and center of learning in the western world, the departments of Humanities, and Social Sciences have been converted to vast intellectual killing fields where the young are told that reality does not exist. The corollary to this is that one may ignore the deprecations of tyrants or the screams of their victims, particularly if the tyrant in question espouses a Marxist or (more recently) a tribalist view. The corollary to this is that one may ignore the results of 80 years of collectivist madness. The corollary to this, when gazing upon 110 million graves, is to say are not dead, there has been no war, there are no slain…but dead they are.

    Derrida was a vanguard of the movement which pretended to offer constructive criticism of western civilization, reaped the rewards traditionally bestowed on those that do, and undermined its absolute foundation–reason. Then, to compound the crime, he denied that he ought to have been taken seriously. After foisting his lies on the world for four decades, and striving to turn the whole edifice of the educational establishment toward the destruction of his critics, then at the last, he blamed his victim for ever listening.

    A shabby untalented laborer may choose to become a con man and charge little old ladies for “work” on their houses that is never performed. A shabby untalented pseudo-intellectual becomes a post-modern philosopher and destroys the reason of young for 40 years, extending his reach to the very doors of the nursery.

    We would not mourn the con-man. We should abominate Derrida.

  • wowee

    interesting “debate”, and i must admit i don’t know enough about derrida to comment on the veracity of it all. but it seems to me that you have given up on the notion of personal responsibility (i.e., that we are responsible for our own actions, choices, decisions) in your derrida-bashing. if educated citizens are apparently so easily swayed by his arguments, is that not rather a reflection on our education systems than on his teachings? i think it is not only the extreme-ultra-intellectuals that should remain immune to his presumed sophism.

    anyway, he is far from the first to suggest that there is no objective reality.