The major philosophical area of inquiry in deconstruction as proposed by Jacques Derrida in his texts is overturning and challenging the metaphysical concepts of opposition. The oppositions being challenged by deconstruction dominant in Western philosophy are typically binary and hierarchical. This involves a pair of terms or concepts in which one of them is considered superior or primary while the other is considered secondary and derivative of the superior term or concept. These oppositions may include writing and speech, nature and culture, sensibility and intelligibility, form and meaning, inside and outside among other oppositions. To deconstruct these oppositions, one tries to determine the contradictions in the hierarchical ordering presumed in a text and other components of meaning usually implicit or indirect or those that depend on the figurative applications of language. To explain further the role of deconstruction and meaning, Jacques Derrida brought out the concepts of difference and logocentrism as key areas of inquiry in his texts.
To begin, Derrida explored the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau where Rousseau indicated that society and culture could be viewed as being corrupt and oppressive. This is because man’s nature that drove him to benefit the self and ignore others in the world. In this sense, Rousseau assumed that the nature of people was superior to culture. However, Derrida proposed that culture in another sense could be superior to nature. Then it would be said that the nature of man is a product of culture, and the nature of man depends on a certain culture practiced at one point in history. This is not to overturn Rousseau’s theory and claim that his ideas were wrong, but the relationship between the terms cannot be viewed from a biased perspective as Rousseau did. The role of deconstruction is to restructure how an opposition is viewed, not simply to upset the opposition (Wheeler, 2000).
Jacques Derrida in his writing proposed that the theory claiming writing was secondary to speech as being pervasive. He approached the matter from a binary and hierarchical point of view. The claim that speech is more authentic and dependable as opposed to writing was a misunderstood concept according to Derrida (Wheeler, 2000). The proponents of this school suggested speech as being superior because one’s ideas and intentions can be realized immediately. In writing, however, the ideas and intentions of an author are remote or absent making his work susceptible to misunderstanding.
Derrida argued that the words could only act as symbols only to the extent in which they can be repeated in different situations, when the original speaker is absent. In other words, speech qualifies as a language to the extent in which it shares characteristics traditionally attributed to writing including absence and the possibility of being misunderstood. An indicator of this fact is that Western philosophy’s speech descriptions rely on written content such as metaphors. A metaphor is considered an aspect of speech yet metaphors can also be identified in written works, and still written works will be written off as being secondary to speech (Gaston, 2006). The aim of this argument is not to invert the superiority of writing over speech or show that there are no differences between the two communication media. The aim is to dislodge the opposition and establish that neither concept is superior or secondary.
To privilege speech over writing was considered a distorted view of meaning in how language is used. This view associates meaning of words with regard to the intentions and ideas within a speakers mind. In reality, the ideas we associate with the symbols of a language are only arbitrary, meaning that there is no one to one correlation between a symbol and the meaning. This means that how we group the world is not necessary or even natural (Wheeler, 2000). How man groups elements in reality vary from one language to another. Hence, the symbols reflecting an object in the real world are not universal. In this sense, meaning can only be sufficiently understood by evaluating the differences observed with other associated meanings. Jacques Derrida, therefore, suggested that the linguistic implication is dependent on the play of disparity of differences between words and no by the original intentions and ideas outside the linguistic realm. In reading a text, for example, meaning is not derived from the intentions of a writer but is determined by how the words in the text relate to each other and how their differences bring out meaning. With this regard, difference a term coined by Derrida, describes words in terms of both differences displayed between words and the deferring element in the words (Gaston, 2006). The argument is that since the meanings of words is dependent on the differences with other words and these words with other words, the meanings of words are not fully revealed to us. Therefore, the words are constantly deferred to portray an infinite number of meanings all of which holding traces of meanings on which they depend.
Another approach to deconstruction is logocentrism. This is a concept that is dependent on Western culture that suggests writing as being removed from speech. The assumption is that truth and meaning exist before and is free from linguistic representation by the signs. In this sense, a signifier can be viewed as either internal or external in relation to others. Speech is seen as being internal and the writing as a peripheral representation of speech. Language being an innate quality of human characteristic, writing cannot be understood without invoking the innate linguistic ability. The concept of logocentrism is a flawed concept if man is to understand the how important writing is as a linguistic tool of communication.
Philosophy plays a major role in the existence of a culture. Culture in its essence is determined by the philosophical thoughts of a people that are fashioned by the use of language. Philosophy is described as a field that applies the faculties of reason and logic to give answers to important and basic questions involving reality, language, human nature, knowledge, morality and life. A philosopher’s aim is to question the basic belief system of a culture and determine its relevance. The answer to such questions give rise to doctrines which if accepted form the basis of a culture. Western philosophy has been linked to the ancient Greeks such as Plato, Aristotle Longinus, and Socrates among others. Their philosophical contributions gave rise to the concept of state and governance that is the basis of western culture and civilization (Gaston, 2006). The problems in ancient Greece prompted thought that questioned the philosophy of their culture that brought about the problems. In this light, philosophy has the ability to transform the fundamental principles of a society for the better. In any case, these principles are products of philosophical thinking.
Deconstruction is a concept best embodies my character since it advocates for the overturning of the metaphysical truths as proposed by our society. The philosophy of Western civilization prompts one to look at the world from a singular point of view. The proposition of deconstruction of looking at the world and determining meaning form two points of view enhances tolerance by accepting the diversity of cultures around the world. Deconstruction enables a realization that superiority of culture is non-existence. The difference in culture is because of the diverse philosophical points of view as put forward by the different cultures.
Western culture is a great influence for the choice of philosophical position. Western culture and civilization is considered the best in the world. However, this popularity has borne negative attitudes toward it from other cultures. Logocentrism suggests the view of writing as being removed from speech and sees it as being inferior to speech. Same principles applied to culture, Western culture assumes a dominant role in the global economy and influence decisions across the world. This nature of Western civilization assumes a dominant role in global politics and economy, and perceives other cultures secondary, forgetting that the diversity of culture if tolerated enhances a peaceful coexistence among the world’s people.
Gaston, S. (2006). Derrida and disinterest. London: Continuum.
Wheeler, S. C. (2000). Deconstruction as analytic philosophy. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.