Reply to D. Marshall

David left a long and very thoughtful comment to a post from a few days ago on Derrida. Go check out the comment.

In that comment he leaves this question for me:

I would like to know, however–because I am not a student of Derrida and have read very little of his work–just what he offers that your average pluralist does not. What makes Derrida unique? How might integral use Derrida? How do you use Derrida? Could you give an example or two? Also, if there are any particularly useful books or articles by Derrida I would appreciate knowing what they are. I don’t have much time to spend on him (the shorter they are the better), but I feel there may be something important there, and I would like to understand it better.

As far as a short introduction, I recommend Gregory Desilet’s eulogy for Derrida. The link is here. Desilet brings out that the core element for Derrida is that division is inherent to being, at its very heart. There are particularly reasons for this given his understanding of grammar, linguistic structures, and epistemology. The application of this insight to texts is known as deconstruction (or perhaps better termed deconstruction/reconstruction). All of which is more the details, fine points, but the main essential point is division/otherness (differenace).

Desilet writes:

This potential for endless fracturing of the text opens the door to the “deconstruction” of the text—the uncovering of new and perhaps unexpected interpretations. These interpretations nevertheless require, contrary to what some critics of deconstruction’s relativistic slant have suggested, rigorous justification, evidence, and argument in their presentation.

It’s certainly true that there are a lot of bad deconstructors who are in fact not following rigorously the methods, nor would pass muster of this particular knowledge community (the craft in MacIntyre’s terminology). And Desilet is correct that the canons of deconstructions are fairly rigorous, However, and this is where Desilet and I would part company (I think), there is no larger evaluative tool to distinguish between gradations of better/worse even among those that have properly followed the rules, i.e passed the muster. In that regard something like a stage conception of development is necessary as a way of grounding such (necessary) distinctions.

That being said, it is worth experiencing the space of the infinite iteration of all texts/interpretations. That is, in a larger sense, to feel the space of the “other side”, of “division.” Within oneself, one’s community, communication, and so on.

It can be powerful voodoo to some (at first), but in the end it’s just one among a million different dimensions of existence/spaces in the Kosmos. Absolutized–i.e. taking it as the de facto final point of development, the terminus/Omega Point–is highly problematic.

As a practical example of what I mean, Derrida’s of notion of nonviolent (this is a major starting poit for Desilet’s own writings).

Desilet writes:

If Derrida is right, a fundamental—but not passively embracing or uncritical— affirmation of the intrusions of difference may become the essential step in achieving nonviolent diverse community. By acknowledging the necessary presence of the other as an essential part of ourselves and as an inescapable element of difference and variation in our modes of communication, it becomes much more difficult to radically exclude, negate, or violently eliminate the other in our communities.

Relatively, inculcating as a value within oneself, the practice of seeing the other in oneself, oneself in the other, non-coercion in communication, being vigilant about patterns of scapegoating, of creating a final us/them duality are all deep practices. As absolute practices, however I’ve argued elsewhere, this can lead to madness or at the least not following a proper ethic of self-defense/self-care. [As a sidenote, the radically diverse plurality, nonviolence themes again highlight Derrida’s overall thought as green/pluralist not turquoise/construct aware.]

As I noted in the earlier post, even Derrida towards the end moved towards Habermas’ political views on the EU, which have some element of interventionism (Habermas supported the First Gulf War and Balkans Conflicts of the 90s not the Second Gulf War).

So there is the permanent practice of learning to see the other as never simply the other. As never simply all-in-one him/her/itself. Just as we are never all in one. And to the degree community rules and ethics can be worked out to respect the difference and embrace that plurality in a manner respective of all sides, it is to be preferred, however recognizing (here would be an integral transcending/including of this) that there are times and places where dialog will not suffice and however necessarily evil it can and will be, other methods must be brought forth to deal with conflict and violence. Still (and here is the Derridian insight as a permanent feature) in such a situation, integral should never fall victim to the universal tendency to demonize/scapegoat the other.

It is like Wilber’s invocation of the Bhagavad Gita: Remember the Lord and Fight. (or perhaps “Struggle.”). Remember the Lord means remember not only the Moral Law and Spiritual Reality of Truth but also one’s enemy is in a sense a reflection of the Lord (hence can not be scapegoated/demonized). But you must still fight.

As even Gandhi said, he was not interested in non-violence but rather “truth-force.”

Update I:  Linking back to an old post, at this point in my life I’m spend a great deal more time and find much more of value in the phenomenological and hermeneutic tradition of Continental thought.  Rather than the post/structuralist school.

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Wow, Chris I really appreciate this response. I think I’m getting it. Let me read Desilet’s eulogy, and I’ll come back.

    Do you see Derrida as complimentary to the nondual mystical schools? It does seem to make him unique when you talk about feeling “the space . . . of ‘division.'”

    And when it comes to whether or not Derrida is post-postmodern it seems to me you really nail it with this:

    “However, and this is where Desilet and I would part company (I think), there is no larger evaluative tool to distinguish between gradations of better/worse even among those that have properly followed the rules, i.e passed the muster.”

    Thanks again. That’s really cool! 🙂


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