Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Notes on Deconstruction

Reaction against both modernism (absolute ‘out there’ truth) and abuse of authority seen in WWII. Reaction especially against the idea that an authority could have absolute truth, and use that truth to enslave or murder.
Deconstruction: undermine authority by word games. The master = satan: has God really said?

Deconstructionism: (From PBS, online dictionary):
A term tied very closely to postmodernism, deconstructionism is a challenge to the attempt to establish any ultimate or secure meaning in a text. Basing itself in language analysis, it seeks to "deconstruct" the ideological biases (gender, racial, economic, political, cultural) and traditional assumptions that infect all histories, as well as philosophical and religious "truths." Deconstructionism is based on the premise that much of human history, in trying to understand, and then define, reality has led to various forms of domination - of nature, of people of color, of the poor, of homosexuals, etc. Like postmodernism, deconstructionism finds concrete experience more valid than abstract ideas and, therefore, refutes any attempts to produce a history, or a truth. In other words, the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily bring knowledge down to the local and specific level, and challenge the tendency to centralize power through the claims of an ultimate truth which must be accepted or obeyed by all.

According to Derrida:
To "deconstruct" philosophy [...] would be to think – in the most faithful, interior way – the structured genealogy of philosophy's concepts, but at the same time to determine – from a certain exterior [...] – what this history has been able to dissimulate or forbid [...] By means of this simultaneously faithful and violent circulation between the inside and the outside of philosophy [...a] putting into question the meaning of Being as presence (Derrida, J., 2002. Positions. Translated by A. Bass. 2nd ed. introduction by C. Norris. London & New York: Continuum. pp. 5–6).
Deconstruction: There is no meaning in the text; meaning lies with the reader; all reading is a “word game;” the reader tries to undermine authority (this shows up in scholars like D.M. Gunn).
Note: there are things we can be thankful for about deconstruction, and points on which we would agree. VanHoozer rightly says:
“Is there not a real danger of mistaking one’s interpretation, which is always secondary, contextual, and never ultimate, for the text itself—a danger we might call the idolatry of literary knowledge?” Deconstruction is, contra modernism, is somewhat refreshing as a, “a standing challenge to interpretive pride ( Is There A Meaning… , pg. 184).”

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