Britannica Online on Deconstruction

Part One:


school or movement of literary criticism initiated by

Jacques Derrida in France, who, in a series of books

published beginning in the late 1960s, launched a major

critique of traditional Western metaphysics.

Deconstruction may be thought of as an examination of

methodology. Like Sigmund Freud’s psychological

theories and Karl Marx’s political theories, Derrida’s

deconstructive strategies, which take off from

Ferdinand de Saussure’s insistence on the arbitrariness

of the verbal sign, have subsequently established

themselves as an important part of postmodernism,

especially in poststructural literary theory and text

analysis. Though the deconstructive principles of

Derrida and later critics are well established, they

remain somewhat controversial.

The deconstruction of philosophy involves the

questioning of the many hierarchical oppositions–such

as cause and effect, presence and absence, speech

(“phonocentrism”) and writing–in order to expose the

bias (the privileged terms) of those tacit assumptions

on which Western metaphysics rest. Deconstruction takes

apart the logic of language in which authors make their

claims, a process that reveals how all texts undermine

themselves because every text includes unconscious

“traces” of other positions exactly opposite to that

which it sets out to uphold. Deconstruction undermines

“logocentrism” (literally, a focus on the word, the

original and originating word in relation to which

other concepts such as truth, identity, and certainty

can be validated; but understood more generally as a

belief in reason and rationality, the belief that

meaning inheres in the world independently of any human

attempt to represent it in words). It follows from this

view that the “meaning” of a text bears only accidental

relationship to the author’s conscious intentions. One

of the effects of deconstructive criticism has been a

loosening of language from concepts and referents.”.

To cite this page:

“deconstruction” Britannica Online.


[Accessed 01 March 1998].


Part Two

“Derrida’s thought is based on his disapproval of the

search for some ultimate metaphysical certainty or

source of meaning that has characterized most Western

philosophy. In his works he offers a way of reading

philosophic texts, called “deconstruction,” which

enables him to make explicit the metaphysical

suppositions and a priori assumptions used even by

those philosophers who are the most deeply critical of

metaphysics. Derrida eschewed the holding of any

philosophical doctrine and instead sought to analyze

language in an attempt to provide a radical alternative

perspective in which the basic notion of a

philosophical thesis is called into question.”


To cite this page:

“Derrida, Jacques” Britannica Online.


[Accessed 01 March 1998].