Within this paper, I would like to argue for and against Derrida’s theory of deconstruction as well as différance, logocentrism, aporia, his post-structuralist ideas and anything else that Derrida managed to come up with in the 40 books he managed to write in his lifetime. It is possible to suggest that Derrida’s philosophic activity “gave a new meaning and clarity” (Angus, 2005) to the idea of controversy itself considering that his theory stemmed from Saussure’s Theory of Signs and he challenged it by doing the contrary.
Jacques Derrida, who was a philosopher as well as a voice of modesty and patience, developed a theory in the mid-1960s which is commonly referred to as “The Theory of Deconstruction”, which was a way of “dismantling one’s excessive loyalty to any idea and learning to see the aspects of truth that were buried in its opposite” (“Deconstruction | Criticism”, 2017). But, what exactly is deconstruction? Deconstructionists go after structuralists, as Derrida did with Saussure. They believe that language is uncentered and it cannot be perfectly communicated, so according to Derrida, anything communicated to anyone is in essence of failure. According to Saussure, “the linguistic sign is the union of a signifier and a signified” (Daylight, 2011) but Derrida didn’t quite agree, as he stated that both the signifier and the signified are moulded together. I personally find this critique to have both its flaws and benefits. I believe that it’s a good critique because language is not as simple as Saussure sets it out to be, and it’s indeed a bottomless pit of associations, yet, it’s flawed because deconstructive criticism generally doesn’t take itself that seriously; you cannot pick apart a meaning if you don’t have a meaning to pick apart.
Derrida really just wants to show that any given text has counteractive meanings to it, rather than being whole. Something everyone can agree on is that language is stable and has meaning and works of literature have covert existence, but deconstructionists don’t really believe in this. It’s all about looking for binary opposites in text, such as, white and black, male and female, or hot and cold. So we bring into question; why are some favoured over the other? And why are some seen as ‘the better’ half? This is what Derrida wanted to put across through his philosophy of criticising literature – one binary term cannot exist without the other.
According to the philosopher himself, he states that deconstruction is “to not assume that what is conditioned by history, institutions, or society is natural,” (Derrida, 2002) which is a statement I’d like to believe to be quite true due to the fact that people are quick to make assumptions of what is right and what isn’t, without any evidence whatsoever. So in conclusion on the theory of deconstruction, it seemingly rejects most of the assumptions made by structuralists.
Moving onto another theory of Derrida, called différance (Derrida, 1968) which has two possible definitions: ‘to differ’ e.g; something is good because it’s not evil or something is not cold because it’s hot and ‘to defer’ e.g; to hold in check. It’s a wormhole that deconstruction opens up — a word can lead to another word but it doesn’t mean that the words carry the same exact meaning either. He basically uses this term to describe “the origin of presence and absence” (Prasad, 2012). Différance functions outside of all metaphysical systems and is the spacing between things that make differences possible in the first place — one term is differentiated from another, by the fact that they are opposite terms. Words cannot be pinned down to a single definite meaning which is a statement I wholly believe in, considering each person is his own, so there can never be a moment where a person will be thinking the same exact thing any other is.