Quotes from Collins’ and Mayblin’s Derrida for Beginners, Part 2

Continuing dumping quotes from Derrida for Beginners.

On phonocentrism:

Derrida maintains that through three millenia [sic!] of Western philosophy, from Plato and Aristotle to Rousseau, Hegel, Husserl and others, philosophers have indeed privileged speech. [...] Writing is derivative … it merely represents speech. It’s a poor substitute, a weak extension.


If writing represents speech, speech is the representative of THOUGHT, of sovereign idea, of ideation, of consciousness itself.

On metaphysics and logocentrism:

Metaphysics inquires into aspects of reality which seem to lie beyond the empirically knowable world, out of reach of scientific methods. Its questions look like the philosophical questions: essential truth, being and knowing, mind, presence, time and space, causation, free will, belief in God, human immortality, etc. [These] questions persist. To set them up and answer them, Western metaphysics has looked for foundations:- fundamentals, principles, or a notion of the centre. [...] This is the drive to ground truth in a single ultimate point—an ultimate origin. Derrida calls this impulse logocentrism. The logos [Greek: logic, reason, the word, God] is taken as the undivided point, the origin. Metaphysics ascribes truth to the logos, along with the origin of truth in general. Metaphysics in its search for foundations is logocentric.

On phenomenology:

A “philosophy of consciousness”—neither intellect nor science can grasp the fundamental nature of consciousness. To do this, philosophy has to deal with phenomena—appearances and our awareness of those appearances. This awareness can’t be grasped through rational proofs and scientific data. What’s needed is intuition, a direct approach to the inner structures of consciousness itself.

What Derrida did:

None of [Derrida’s three books on structuralism and phenomenology] offer arguments of the usual kind. They don’t simply refute, corroborate, commend or oppose. Rather, Derrida “makes a passage through” the texts of phenomenology and structuralism, searching out their hidden points of instability – the points where undecidability is at work. [...] Reading [these] texts, he finds undecidables [...]. And he uses the undecidables to shake up the metaphysical foundations.

Enter deconstruction:

Derrida had used the word in his early writins. It adapted and translated the German Destruktion or Abbau, terms Heidegger had used in his re-examination of metaphysics. For Derrida, the French word destruction was too negative and one-sided. It suggested antagonistic demolition or eradication. In Derrida’s uses, déconstruction designated a double movement: both disordering, or disarrangement, and also re-arranging.


Derrida has resisted the suggestion that there is a concept of deconstruction, simply present to the word, outside of the word’s inscription in sentences and phrases determined by the undecidables. There’s no such concept simply to pass over into other words, other languages [translation].

And deconstructive architecture:

[Bernard] Tschumi proposed an “architecture of disjunction”. Could this be seen as deconstructive? (1) It upsets architectural assumptions about systems. The Park [Le Parc de la Villette] has systems: of points, surfaces, and lines. But they’re superimposed so that they mutually distort and sometimes clash with each other. Paths intersect buildings, ramps and steps are cut off, etc. The systems avoid synthesis. There’s no single coherent outcome. (2) It’s a contaminated architecture. Tschumi encouraged the architectural to collide with non-architectural ideas, elements, forms, etc, from cinema, literature and other cultural fields.


Tschumi promoted a “programmatic instability”, challenging the usual ideas of programmed usefulness in architecture. “If architecture historically has been the harmonious synthesis of COST, STRUCTURE and USE, then the Park is architecture against itself.”

Tschumi provided the Park with 41 Folies: deformed 10m square cubes of red steel. They might be functional, but Tschumi tried to avoid specifying functions in advance. So far, the Folies have been cafés, video studios, a postal station [etc.]. If we expect a building to proclaim itself in terms of decidable functions, the Folies are perhaps undecidable. “We’re encouraging the combination of apparently incompatible activities (the running track passes through the piano bar inside the tropical greenhouse.)”

The above was posted to my personal weblog on June 21, 2005. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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