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Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida (born July 15, 1930) is an Algerian-born French philosopher noted for originating the practice of "deconstruction" as a method of reading texts. He has had a significant effect on literary theory and on some areas of philosophy philosophy. His work is associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism, and is influenced among others by Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot and Martin Heidegger


From 1960 to 1964, Derrida taught philosophy at the Sorbonne. From 1964 to 1984, he taught at the École Normale Superieure[?]. He is currently director of the École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales in Paris. Since 1986 he has been Professor of Philosophy, French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. Some of his most famous works include Speech and Phenomena[?], Of Grammatology[?], and Writing and Difference[?].


Derrida's earliest work was in phenomenology. He published a translation of Edmund Husserl's Foundations of Geometry, for which he wrote a lengthy introduction. His major work began in 1966 with an essay entitled Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences and with several essays on language, writing and speech, and literary interpretation. He has written on Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, and Austin, as well as on Genet, Joyce, and a number of other literary figures.

Derrida's work is most known for a densely literary style: his texts are full of wordplay and allusions, and typically require intensive rereading to determine what if anything is being argued.

In 1972 Derrida published "Signature Event Context," an essay on British philosopher J. L. Austin's speech-act theory, early modern philosophy of language, and the relation between context and intention in determining the meanings of sentences. This was replied to and dismissed rather briefly by American philosopher John Searle - who ascribed to Derrida among other things a "distressing pechant for saying things that are obviously false." Derrida's riposte, Limited Inc takes Searle to task for what he sees as an uncritical and prejudicial essay; Derrida then reevaluates both essays at great length.

Derrida's work has very been controversial; it is rejected by the majority of philosophers, scientists and historians as invalid. One philosopher who does accept his work as valid is Richard Rorty. In 1992 twenty philosophers including W. V. Quine and Ruth Barcan Marcus[?] signed a letter to the University of Cambridge to protest its controversial award of an honorary doctorate to Derrida, maintiaining that his work "does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor" and describing his philosophy as being composed of "tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists."

Derrida has had a significant influence on in the humanities, especially in literary theory and literary criticism, some of the social sciences, and among some feminist literary scholars.

See also: Deconstructionism

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