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Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2004) was a French/Algerian Deconstructionist philosopher. To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.

Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida, French Deconstructionist philosopher

Source: EGS


[In an attempt to understand Derrida, after reading an idea I prune it down to a simple statement, and then go back and try to build back up to his stated idea.]

The only attitude (the only politics–judicial, medical, pedagogical and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning, that is, an effective and thus transforming questioning. — [Translation? The attitude I would condemn cuts off questioning; that is, I demand infinite questioning, without tolerating answers or permitting action.]

To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend. — [Translation? To fake an action I fake faking it. – This is nonsense because once a thing is pretended everything based upon that pretense is itself pretense, and even if a true statement is quoted within the context, it is embedded within a false one, and therefore it is only a part of the lie. The most believable lies are those with clear truths embedded within them.]

A determination or an effect within a system which is no longer that of a presence but of a différance, a system that no longer tolerates the opposition of activity and passivity, nor that of cause and effect, or of indetermination and determination, etc., such that in designating consciousness as an effect or a determination, one continues – for strategic reasons that can be more or less lucidly deliberated and systematically calculated – to operate according to the lexicon of that which one is de-limiting. — [Translation? Comparisons of opposites is not tolerated, and only essence exists.]

One can be an “anachronistic” contemporary of a past generation, or the one to come. To be faithful to those considered of my generation, to be the guardian of a common if diverse heritage, means two things: To adhere, in the face of everything, to certain shared disciplines, from Lacan to Althusser, and including Levinas, Foucault, Barthes, Deleuze, Blanchot, Lyotard, Sarah Kofman, etc.; and that is without naming so many thinkers, poets, philosophers, or psychoanalysts who are happily alive, and from whom I have also inherited, and undoubtedly from others abroad, in even greater number, and who, for all their distance, sometimes feel closer. — [Translation? Toss in enough items, each of which is obscure in itself, and one can create a mental word salad at war with itself. This is a fine example of the opposite of simplicity, clarity, the opposite of new and useful, it is the perfection of foolishness. Those who drink it in, and “understand” will convert themselves into fools.]

Can one learn, by method or training, by experience or experiment, to accept – better yet, to affirm – life? … It is also the torment of parents and their children: When will you become responsible? When will you be accountable for your own life and name? — [Derrida appears to recognize his failure to relate to experience, to his family, and even to himself.]

You know, to learn how to live – this is always narcissistic. You want to live as long as you can, to save yourself, to persevere, and to cultivate all these things that, infinitely larger and more powerful than you, are nonetheless part of this “I,” from which they overflow on all sides. To ask me to renounce what has shaped me, what I have loved so much, is to ask me to die. In this sort of faithfulness there is a kind of instinct for self-preservation. For me it would be an intolerable obscenity to reject a difficult formulation, a fold, a paradox, yet another contradiction, because it is not going to be understood, or because such and such journalist who does not understand it, who can not get even the title of the book, and thinks that the reader or viewer will not understand either, and that therefore management won’t like it or his career will suffer as a result. You might as well ask me to bow and scrape, or to die of stupidity. — [Translation? I am not going to be understood because my habit is to turn everything I encounter into a contradiction and a paradox. My life is one of intentional, and thus habitual obfuscation. It doesn’t make me happy, but it is what I do, it is me. I live a life of eternal questioning, and if something appears which might make sense I soon convert it into a more obscure question and a paradox.]


COMMENTS on Jacques Derrida

The world of philosophy, the love of wisdom seems to have come to a counter-reaction to seeking, and devolved into a love of obscurity and paradox. The age of enlightenment philosophers with Bacon, Spinoza, Descartes seems to have its counter in a now passing age of endarkenment with Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida. Language is a diffuse method of communication, thus when an idea is stated with great clarity the problems associated with the inherent diffuseness become vivid; but, when ideas are stated in a confusing way the problems remain invisible and potentially useful ideas remain unused. When the endarkenment philosophers, such as Derrida make a habit of creating intentionally difficult statements such as, To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend, we may safely move on to other philosophers which make clear statements. We may find fault with their clear statements, but we may build upon them, and find new and useful ideas.

With the arrival of the self intelligent, and a fully transparent world (to those with access), we need a new philosophy of life. It will be something beyond observation of the physical operations of the world, something beyond deconstruction; perhaps it will be something beyond human life itself; I don’t know, but the present trend is toward the supremacy of entertainment and reverence for “the story”.

He who controls “Today’s Story” controls the world.