Dasein, Red Elephant.

The Three Ages of Derrida

Interview with Jacques Derrida

What's the most widely held misconception about you and your work?

That I'm a skeptical nihilist who doesn't believe in anything, who thinks nothing has meaning, and text has no meaning. That's stupid and utterly wrong, and only people who haven't read me say this. It's a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it's difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we're enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the deconstruction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language. Anyone who reads my work with attention understands that I insist on affirmation and faith, and that I'm full of respect for the texts I read.

With sufficient understanding of the Other, could the impulse to kill be erased?

The drive to kill will never be erased, because it's part of the human animal. The human animal has a capacity for cruelty, and to make the Other suffer can be a source of pleasure. That isn't eradicable, but it doesn't mean we have the right to kill — and this is one of the crucial functions of philosophy and thinking, to handle this irreducible drive. Cruelty and aggression are always there, but they can be transformed into things that are beautiful and sublime. When I write, there's an element of aggression in that activity, but I attempt to transform that aggression into something useful. Aggression can be transformed into something more interesting than killing — and of course, you can kill without killing. I can kill the Other without putting an end to his or her life, and can be aggressive in a way that's not despicable.

Why aren't there any female philosophers?

Because the philosophical discourse is organized in a manner that marginalizes, suppresses and silences women, children, animals and slaves. This is the structure — it would be stupid to deny it, and consequently there have been no great women philosophers. There have been great women thinkers, but philosophy is one very particular mode of thinking among other modes of thinking. But we're in a historical phase when things like this are changing.

The complete interview is available here.

I've only just discovered this 2002 LA weekly interview with Derrida, done at the time when Derrida, a biopic on his life was released in the cinemas. Like many other public interviews, this focuses more on the man than his work. Still, an OK read.

Several audio recordings of Derrida, including an 80 minute video of Derrida talking at Sussex. An absolutely fascinating lecture. Link


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  1. * charles says:

    this is great, I want to check out the entire interview. The first answer really helps in terms of my art and my reading of Derrida. merci!

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago

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