14 October 2004

Derrida, encore une fois

The assessment of Derrida's legacy continues and will likely continue for some time to come. Here are two more contributions to this. First, The New Criterion's Roger Kimball, who offers the following: "The Meaninglessness of Meaning: Jacques Derrida is dead, but his baneful ideas live on." That telltale word baneful will likely tip off the clever prospective reader that Kimball is by no means an unqualified fan.

However, the second retrospective, by Scott McLemee in the Chronicle of Higher Education, notes the fascinating "theological" turn in Derrida's thought in the 1990s, as recounted by John D. Caputo of Syracuse University. In the last decade and a half of his life, Derrida began to speak of certain things as "undeconstructible," such as justice, democracy, friendship and hospitality. Might this have represented a reaching towards God? Caputo thinks so.

"He meant that, I think, the name of God was important for him," said Mr. Caputo, "even if, by the standards of the local pastor or rabbi, he was an atheist. The name of God was tremendously important for him because it was one of the ways that we could name the unconditional, the undeconstructible."

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