Quotes from Collins’ and Mayblin’s Derrida for Beginners, Part 3 (the last)

Continuing dumping quotes from Derrida for Beginners.

On architecture and philosophy:

Western philosophy has often used architectonic terms—metaphors of base and superstructure, foundations and edifices, and founding moments and founding fathers. For instance, Descartes in the 17th century wrote of “the founding of a town” to describe his inauguration of a new rationalist philosophy.

Heidegger, too, used architectural terms: the edifice or grounded structure, and later, language as the house, the enclosing home or dwelling-place of Being.

Derrida and deconstructive architecture:

Architecture cannot escape external forces: economic, political, legal, institutional, etc. [...] For Derrida, a deconstructive architecture has to engage these forces. It means interrogating architecture’s “traditional sanctions”: that buildings should be USEFUL, BEAUTIFUL, and INHABITABLE. This might suggest a wilfully useless, non-functional, uninhabitable, perhaps reckless architecture. But re-inscriptions are possible…

Beauty, usefulness, and functionality might occur, but re-inscribed in the building. The external constraints and finalities will remain, but subject to a deforming play.

Deconstruction and pop art:

Pop Art imports “found” popular objects and images into art. Are they readable then as popular culture or as art? [Sarat] Maharaj reads them as pharmakons [Greek: means both cure and poison]. They’re undecidable. They oscillate between art materials and everyday objects, never resolvable to just one side of the usual oppositions: high/low, serious/non-serious, sacred/profane.

Concluding the book:

So Derrida’s writing on art, architecture and literature interrogates the foundational concepts of those fields, especially where they uphold the authority of Western philosophy. But his writing has raised many questions.

Doesn’t the strategy of contamination simply collapse together all types of writing, all cultural practices—flattening everything out?

This would collapse all differences into a generalized indifference. Philosophy, literature, art and other practices have their specificities, their particular demands and characteristics. These are important to recognize. Derrida has looked for strategic contaminations, at the points where metaphysical assumptions carry their greatest power.

Isn’t Derrida promoting a kind of “transcendental solipsism”, denying “reality outside the text”?

It’s more a question of rethinking the usual, assumed relations between “reality” and “text”. Appeals to “the real” are part of the foundational apparatus of Western thinking—for instance in philosophical positivisms, materialisms, etc. To deconstruct them is to leave no firm, clear line between concepts of reality and representation.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on June 23, 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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