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Jacques Derrida (1930–2004)

Jacques Derrida ranks among the most important thinkers in recent French intellectual history, his name inextricably linked to the concept he coined: deconstruction. The author of numerous works, Derrida was a world-renowned figure at the time of his death in 2004. Born and raised in Algeria, Derrida was expelled from his high school in 1942 by a Vichy-backed administration enforcing its anti-Semitic quotas. He came to France in the late 1940s, and gained admission to the École Normale Supérieure in 1951 after pursuing studies at the lycée Louis-le-Grand. Though he always occupied a peculiar position within French academia due to the idiosyncrasy of his methods, Derrida found immense success in the Anglophone world, teaching at multiple universities in the US, and eventually holding a position at the University of California, Irvine from 1986 until his death. Through a series of works published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Derrida pointed to the aporias of structuralism as a theoretical paradigm, paving the way for a poststructuralist engagement with the indeterminacy of language and signification as such. Despite the literary style of much of his writing, Derrida’s work was thoroughly philosophical as well, pursuing a critique of the ‘metaphysics of presence’ and the predominance of logocentrism in the history of Western thought. Inspired by Heidegger, with whose project Derrida remained critically engaged for much of his career, Derrida’s later work witnessed several ‘turns’, from an engagement with questions of politics and ethics, to religion, to an investigation of animality shortly before his death.

While never a member of the Cercle d’Épistémologie, and despite his critical distance from psychoanalysis, Derrida was an intriguing figure to the editors of the Cahiers due to his early critiques of Husserlian phenomenology. Derrida produced a masters thesis on Husserl in 1954, under the direction of Louis Althusser, and in 1962 he published a translation of Husserl’s ‘The Origins of Geometry’, which included a long introduction that was approvingly cited in the Cahiers. In 1964, Derrida became an instructor at the École Normale Supérieure and his contribution to volume four was drawn from his teaching. His assessment of Lévi-Strauss, with its critique of the Rousseauist distinction between nature and culture and its claims for an operative ‘arche-writing’ that is at once anterior to speech and a condition of all science, would go on to greater fame after its inclusion in Derrida’s major work Of Grammatology.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques Derrida, ‘Avertissement’, CpA 4.Introduction [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]
Jacques Derrida, ‘Nature, Culture, Ecriture (de Lévi-Strauss à Rousseau)’, CpA 4.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Le Problème de la genèse dans la philosophie de Husserl (1954). Paris: PUF, 1990. The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy, trans. Marian Hobson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  • Edmund Husserl. L’Origine de la géometrie, traduction et introduction de Jacques Derrida. Paris: PUF, 1962. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
  • La Voix et le phénomène. Paris: PUF, 1967. "Speech and Phenomena" and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
  • De la Grammatologie. Paris: Minuit, 1967. Of Grammatologie, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
  • L’Écriture et la différence, Paris: Seuil, 1967. Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
  • Marges de la philosophie. Paris: Minuit, 1972. Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
  • La Carte postale: De Socrate à Freud et au-delà. Paris: Flammarion, 1980. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.