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Essential History

Jacques Derrida and the Development of Deconstruction

Kates, Joshua

Publication Year: 2005

However widely and differently Jacques Derrida may be viewed as a "foundational" French thinker, the most basic questions concerning his work still remain unanswered: Is Derrida a friend of reason, or philosophy, or rather the most radical of skeptics? Are language related themes writing, semiosis his central concern, or does he really write about something else? And does his thought form a system of its own, or does it primarily consist of commentaries on individual texts? This book seeks to address these questions by returning to what it claims is essential history: the development of Derrida's core thought through his engagement with Husserlian phenomenology. Joshua Kates recasts what has come to be known as the Derrida/Husserl debate, by approaching Derrida's thought historically, through its development. Based on this developmental work, Essential History culminates by offering discrete interpretations of Derrida's two book length 1967 texts, interpretations that elucidate the until now largely opaque relation of Derrida's interest in language to his focus on philosophical concerns.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy


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pp. ix

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pp. xi

I would like to acknowledge and thank the following institutions and persons: the University at Buffalo and the many fine faculty there with whom I studied—among them, Rodolphe Gasché for his pioneering work and intellectual example, Neil Schmitz, and above all Henry Sussman for his...

List of Abbreviations of Works by Jacques Derrida

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xxix

A radical reappraisal of Jacques Derrida’s work is necessary, this book contends, if Derrida studies are to remain a viable field of scholarly inquiry in the future and if the humanities, more generally, are to have access to a replenishing source of living theoretical concerns. Valuable alternatives to the largely historicist practices regnant today in the humanities have...

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1. The Success of Deconstruction: Derrida, Rorty, Gasch

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pp. 3-31

The ultimate aim of this book is to set out a new interpretation of Derrida’s core thought, in particular his two book-length 1967 works, Speech and Phenomena and Of Grammatology—the works for which Derrida remains best known even today. In this chapter, I begin from some of Derrida’s best interpreters in order...

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2. “A Consistent Problematic of Writing and the Trace”: The Debate in Derrida/Husserl Studies and the Problem of Derrida’s Development

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pp. 32-52

Chapter 1 started from the debates in the literature to bring forward a problem with deconstruction’s operation, and from these debates, I set out two guidelines that pointed a way toward a remedy. These guidelines, however, as some readers may have already sensed, contain an implicit...

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3. Derrida’s 1962 Interpretation of Writing and Truth: Writing in the “Introduction” to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry

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pp. 53-82

I am about to turn to section 7 of the “Introduction” to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry, in which Derrida discusses writing for the first time in his published corpus, in order to answer the question that has emerged as decisive for adjudicating whether Derrida’s thought develops significantly...

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4. The Development of Deconstruction as a Whole and the Role of Le probl

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pp. 83-114

Significant development does take place in Derrida’s treatment of writing between 1962 and 1967, as well as in his thought more generally, it has now been shown. Derrida came upon the theme of writing for the first time in the “Introduction” within the framework of Husserl’s late historical analysis...

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5. Husserl’s Circuit of Expression and the Phenomenological Voice in Speech and Phenomena

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pp. 115-157

Having arrived at a developmental overview of Derrida’s 1967 writings, I now wish to turn to Speech and Phenomena. Good reasons exist to think that Of Grammatology, or at least parts of it, were written before Speech—an earlier draft of the first half of Of Grammatology having appeared as an article...

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6. Essential History: Derrida’s Reading of Saussure, and His Reworking of Heideggerean History

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pp. 158-217

Derrida’s encounter with Husserl has now been sketched: his thought’s development through phenomenology—leading from Derrida’s earliest writing, Le problème, to Speech, his last total interpretation of Husserl’s thought—has arrived at completion. The deconstruction specific...


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pp. 219-296


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pp. 297-305


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pp. 307-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780810162365
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810123267

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy