Re: Eagleton on Derrida

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Mon Oct 18 2004 - 01:08:36 EDT

No not before just now - but also I would defend Derrida against an vulgar 
attack. That does not change my judgement that Derridas style was not 
something that we should praise.

I am probably more critical than Eagelton, but I am not deriding Derrida, I 
am just not praising him.


At 06:10 18.10.2004, you wrote:
>Anders, did you see this?
>Don't deride Derrida
>Academics are wrong to rubbish the philosopher
>Terry Eagleton
>Friday October 15, 2004
>The Guardian
>English philistinism continues to flourish, not least when the words
>"French philosopher" are uttered. This week in the Guardian our
>home-grown intelligentsia gave a set of bemused, bone-headed
>responses to the death of Jacques Derrida. Either they hadn't read
>him, or they believed his work was to do with words not meaning what
>you think they do. Or it was just a pile of garbage.
>In line with this judicious assessment, Derrida - one of the most
>eminent postwar French thinkers - was turned down for an honorary
>degree at Cambridge University. The man was regarded by the stuffed
>shirts as a subversive nihilist who believed that words could mean
>anything you liked, that truth was a fiction, and that there was
>nothing in the world but writing. In their eyes, he was a dangerous
>mixture of anarchist, poet and jester.
>But the dons who voted him down were the kind of scrupulous academics
>who had almost certainly not read his books. They knew he was
>radical, enigmatic, French, photogenic and wildly popular with
>students. The university had the good sense to reverse its decision
>later; but many academics regard him as a man out to destroy
>philosophy, thus depriving some of them of a living.
>In fact, Derrida rejoiced in the pantheon of philosophy from Plato to
>Heidegger. Deconstruction, the philosophical method he promoted,
>means not destroying ideas, but pushing them to the point where they
>begin to come apart and expose their latent contradictions. It meant
>reading against the grain of supposedly self-evident truths, rather
>than taking them for granted. English senior common rooms are full of
>self-righteous blather about thinkers like Derrida being more
>interested in abstract theories than in close reading. In fact, he
>read works of art and philosophy with a stunning originality and
>intricacy beyond that of most of his critics.
>This was never for Derrida a purely academic pursuit. His first great
>works appeared in Paris on the eve of the political explosion of May
>1968, at a time when he was close to, but critical of, the French
>Communist party. Since the party had cravenly supported the French
>repression of Algeria, and since Derrida was an Algerian Jewish
>colonial, his oblique relations to official Marxism were
>But he remained a staunch member of the political left. He aimed to
>prise open classical leftist ideas such as Marxism to the marginal,
>the aberrant; in this sense his project had affinities with the work
>of Raymond Williams, EP Thompson, Stuart Hall and the 1970s feminists
>in Britain. A vital part of the heritage of May '68 has been
>Derrida once remarked that he wanted to "write like a woman". He was
>one of a lineage of anti-philosophers, from Kierkegaard to
>Wittgenstein, who invented a new style of philosophical writing. He
>understood that official thought turns on rigorously exclusive
>oppositions: inside/outside, man/woman, good/evil. He loosened up
>such paranoid antitheses by the flair and brio of his writing, and in
>doing so spoke up for the voiceless, from whose ranks he had emerged.
> Terry Eagleton is professor of cultural theory at Manchester University

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