March 05, 2006

Deconstruction, de-sedimentation

In The Specters of Marx, Derrida characterizes the project of deconstruction as a political one. “Even where it is not acknowledged, even where it remains unconscious or disavowed, this debt remains at work, in particular in political philosophy which structures implicitly all philosophy or all thought on the subject of philosophy.” (1994, p. 93)
This terse passage reflects several important claims made by Derrida throughout his work.
  • First, although he will not claim that political philosophy is foundational for all other philosophy, he does claim that no philosophy is unstructured to some extent by political philosophy.
  • Second, there is a “debt” involved in political philosophy just as in all other philosophy, a debt that, under many different forms, Derrida has spent his career attempting to articulate, through the forms and targets of deconstruction.

“[N]amely the deconstruction of the ‘proper’, of logocentrism, linguisticism, phonologism, the demystification or the de-sedimentation of the autonomic hegemony of language (a deconstruction in the course of which is elaborated another concept of the text or the trace, of their originary technization, of iterability, of the prosthetic supplement, but also of the proper and what was given the name exappropriation.)” (1994, p. 93)

Deconstruction, also characterized as a textual and academic project of denaturalization, is inherently political for Derrida, not because it leads to direct political action through prescription, but because it leads to the possibility of action which can try to think itself as responsible action, precisely because the subject of this action questions the historically given, sedimented in language, conditions of its action and thought. A certain antinomy of the relation between the subject and its propria results from this, however.
  • On the one hand, for particular subjects engaged in it, deconstruction must end up somewhere or it becomes a paralyzing academic exercise of reading and deconstructing texts; this means that the type of philosophy that is the negation of the possibility of the “proper” founding itself fully must generate or appropriate, in order to allow a responsible subject, a region of discourse and action where the subject can lay claim to what is “proper” to him- or herself.
  • On the other hand, the subject cannot be allowed to think that they have fully satisfied the demands of thinking out the implications of these propria, or put in other way, strategies of questioning must be arrayed against him or her. Gregory B. Sadler Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy Vol. 8 2004

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