Although the term is often used interchangeably (and loosely) alongside others like ‘post-structuralism’ and ‘postmodernism’, deconstruction differs from these other movements. Unlike post-structuralism, its sources lie squarely within the tradition of Western philosophical debate about truth, knowledge, logic, language and representation. Where post-structuralism follows the linguist Saussure – or its own version of Saussure – in espousing a radically conventionalist (hence sceptical and relativist) approach to these issues, deconstruction pursues a more complex and critical path, examining the texts of philosophy with an eye to their various blindspots and contradictions. Where postmodernism blithely declares an end to the typecast ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘modernist’ project of truth-seeking rational enquiry, deconstruction preserves the critical spirit of Enlightenment thought while questioning its more dogmatic or complacent habits of belief. It does so primarily through the close reading of philosophical and other texts and by drawing attention to the moments of ‘aporia’ (unresolved tension or conflict) that tend to be ignored by mainstream exegetes. Yet this is not to say (as its detractors often do) that deconstruction is a kind of all-licensing textualist ‘freeplay’ which abandons every last standard of interpretive fidelity, rigour or truth. At any rate it is a charge that finds no warrant in the writings of those – Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man chief among them – whose work is discussed below.
Citing this article:
Norris, Christopher. 'Deconstruction'. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1998: Accessed (August 26, 2016). https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/deconstruction/v-1/. doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N012-1
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