I got this five-part schema
from Hugh Wilder, a philosophy professor at the University of Charleston,
while working in an NEH summer seminar on Critical Theory at Stanford.
Since Hugh is friends with Gayatri Spivak (who translated Of Grammatology
and is a leading proponent/explicator of deconstruction), I feel this scheme
stands less than the usual chance of being oversimplified. -- E.K. Sparks
Whatever text, discipline, subject, author, Derrida chooses to study, he always goes through the same five basic steps:
1. SHOW THAT THERE IS AN OPPOSITION BETWEEN TWO OF THE FUNDAMENTAL TERMS IN THE ARGUMENT.
Phallocentrism:: Male is taken as normative; female is defined as deviant. Cf. Freud and penis envy; Kohlberg scale of moral development.
Logocentrism:: Presence of the logos, unitary state of being is privileged over absence of meaning, multiple states of becoming.
We privileged writing over speech? Female over male? (This is the experiment performed in many woman-only worlds or female dominated societies in science fiction.) What happens to philosophy when we privilege absence over presence? (This, by the way, is why Nietzsche is so important to deconstructors, because he provided just such a deconstructive account of the history of Western philosophy.) NB: This is not the end of the process; its purpose is not merely to be perverse.
Phonocentrism:: Writing turns out to be more prior than speech (see Norris , DC: T&P, pp. 28-9), turns out to be the precondition of all language, including speech. (Remember the specialized definitions of speech and writing. Speech is not oral language but all unitary, direct language which is assumed to be a transparent expression of the thoughts present in the speaker's mind. Writing is not just marks on paper, but all language which functions by means of its interconnections with the previous forms of language, all language which is conscious of itself as text.)
Metaphor:: is a good, clear example here also. Metaphor not only supplements the meaning of the original term but also replaces that original, literal meaning with the addition of a whole chain of possible difference in signifiers.
Logocentrism :: (I got this out of my notes on Culler's essay about Derrida in Sturrock.) Our language and thinking is so suffused with the metaphysics of presence that we seem to only have this alternative: Either something is present or it is absent.
The idea of differance comes in here as a way to resist limiting the discussion to this opposition. In language, differance means that meaning is both present and absent at the same time. The signifier (the word that stands for the concept) keeps slip-sliding away from the signified (the concept or idea). There was no unitary, beginning moment when "bed" was identical with the thing it named. Instead, "bed" only creates its meaning in the context of its differences from other signifiers in the language system such as "bad" or "dead." The idea of differance is tied into the logic of the supplement because both offer new alternatives to the Hegelian dialectic. What was thesis and antithesis is deconstructed so that the interdependence of the two terms is seen and the hierarchy and the opposition are destroyed.
Last update: 8/27/98