Derrida’s Critique of Logocentrism

Derrida’s concept of decojacques-derrida-0061.jpegnstruction displaced structuralism and undertook to decentre or subvert the traditional claims for the existence of all foundations such as knowledge, meaning, truth and the subject. Derrida identifies in all of Western philosophic traditions, a logocentrism or “metaphysics of presence”. Logocentrism, as manifested in Saussure’s phonocentrism, holds that speech (which brings thought) is a privileged, ideal and self preserving identity through which all discourse and meanings are derived. In Saussure, speech is privileged over writing on account of the presence and authority of the speaker, while writing denoted absence. Instead of the binary opposition speech/writing which comprise the Logos, Derrida proposes the term “ecriture”, which is an abstract writing (like writing on air waves or on a recording device), which is beyond the bounds of any language and is characterised by differance.

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Poststructuralism critiques the binary oppositions in Western thought, in which one term is privileged over the other, as in, presence/absence, male/female, speech/writing, identity/difference, truth/error, mastery/submission, West/ East; the former denotes the privileged, central term associated with the logos or the phallus. Poststructuraiism attempts to break down these oppositions by pointing out that one signifier does not lead to a concrete totalised signified, but to another signifier which in turn leads to yet another signifier and so on, in an endless chain of signification.

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