Thursday, October 14, 2004

Briefly on Derrida.
Brian Leiter comments that this list is made up of nothing but literature professors.

Deconstruction has always seemed to me a needlessly baroque argument for there being limits to our ability to recreate, mirror, or mimic the world. Still, I'm more interested in the attempt than I am in creating patterrns out of whole cloth and then claiming that they have truth value. And isn't that what analytic philosophy is all about?

Better a fictionalized recreation than a fantasy. It's the difference between Jon Stewart and George W Bush.
But this orthodoxy, too, can be as ruthless and demanding as any other. This may have been why Derrida could often become mannered and puerile, endlessly turning rebellion on itself. And late in his life, Derrida, bristling at charges that he was a relativist, tried to find some sort of firm, unshakeable ground upon which to stand a notion of political activity and justice that might justify his triumphant orthodoxy. To no avail. In the recent book, "Philosophy in a Time of Terror," here is what he said about 9/11:

"We do not in fact know what we are saying or naming in this way: September 11, le 11 septembre, September 11. The brevity of the appellation (September 11, 9/11) stems not only from an economic or rhetorical necessity. The telegram of this metonymy - a name, a number - points out the unqualifiable by recognizing that we do not recognize or even cognize that we do not yet know how to qualify, that we do not know what we are talking about."

The rest is silence.
Given a choice between a mannered, self-consciously bemused old humanist and Edward Rothstein, I'd choose the former without much need to wonder why.

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