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Jacques Derrida: biography of this French philosopher

Jacques Derrida: biography of this French philosopher

June 13, 2024

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was a French philosopher, recognized as one of the most influential of the structuralist and poststructuralist tradition who have been part of contemporary Western philosophy. It is, among other things, the founder of "deconstruction", a way of critically analyzing the literary organization of texts and philosophy, as well as the political organization of institutions.

In this article we will see developed the biography of Jacques Derrida , one of the most influential philosophers for the theory and literary and political criticism of the XX and XXI century.

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Jacques Derrida: biography of an influential contemporary philosopher

Jacques Derrida was born on July 15, 1930 in El Biar, Algeria , which at that time was a French colony. Son of Judeo-Spanish parents and educated in French tradition from very early.


In the year 1949, after the Second World War, he tried to enter the École Normale Supérieure, in Paris, France. But, it was until the year of 1952 when he managed to access, after repeating the admission exam for the second time. It was formed in an intellectual climate where several of the most representative philosophers of the 20th century were booming . For example, Deleuze, Foucault, Barthes, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Lyotard, Althusser, Lacan, Ricoeur, Levi-Strauss or Levinas.

Derrida worked closely with some of them, and he also remained critical of several of his proposals. For example, he made important readings about the works of Levinas and Michel Foucault, to whom he criticized his interpretation of Descartes.


Likewise, he developed his work in which he was the century of the development and rise of phenomenology . Derrida was formed very close to his maximum exponent, Edmund Husserl. Later he specialized in the philosophy of Hegel along with Jean Hyppolite and Maurice de Gandillac, from the hand of those who made a doctoral thesis in 1953 on "The ideal of the literary object."

Academic activity

In the following years his work became very extensive and complex, while he worked as a professor of philosophy at the University of the Sorbonne from 1960 to 1964, a time when he started writing and publishing numerous articles and books that deal with quite diverse topics.

Later he also worked as a teacher in his alma mater, the École Normale Supérieure and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, all of them in Paris. He was also a visiting professor at various universities around the world, including Yale University and the University of California.


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The deconstruction and the meaning

Jacques Derrida is recognized among other things for having developed the "deconstruction", which refers to a quite complex act whose interpretation and applications may be very different, and which nevertheless has marked the philosophical production of much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

To a very large extent, Derrida uses deconstruction to examine critically the conceptual paradigms in which Western society has settled since the beginnings of Greek philosophy to the present day.

These paradigms are heavily loaded with a particular element: dichotomies (hierarchical oppositions between two concepts), what they have generated thoughts and binary understandings about the phenomena of the world and about human beings. As well as they have generated forms of identification and construction of certain subjectivities.

Being hierarchical oppositions, have as a consequence that we understand one of the two phenomena of the dichotomy as the primary phenomenon, or the fundamental one, and the second as a derivative. For example, what happens in the classic distinction between mind and body; nature and culture; the literal and the metaphorical, among many others.

Through deconstruction, Derrida made visible and operational the way in which the one that philosophy, science, art or politics have emerged as a result of these oppositions , which among other things has had effects in subjective terms, and in the experience and social organization.

And he made it visible and operational mainly through examine the contradictions and tensions between these hierarchies (whether they are presented explicitly or implicitly), as well as analyzing their consequences in terms of meaning construction.

Precisely, what derives from the latter is the suggestion that the paradigms in which our societies have settled are not natural, immovable and not necessary by themselves; they are a product or a construction.

Literary criticism and text analysis

While Derrida develops this from literary criticism, the deconstruction applies at the beginning for the analysis of the text . An example is the opposition between discourse and writing, where discourse is understood as the primordial and most authentic element. Derrida shows that the same composition that is traditionally associated with writing is present in discourse, as is the possibility of equivocation.

By revealing the constraints in the composition structure, it is shown the impossibility of creating terms that are paramount , and therefore hierarchical, with which there may be possibility of making a restructuring.

For Derrida, the meaning of a word is a function that takes place in the contrast that is shown when relating it to another. From this it follows that the meaning never fully reveals itself to us, nor "truly", as if the word itself were the object that it names in itself. Rather, it is about senses that we share after a long and infinite chain of contrasted meanings.

Bibliographic references:

  • Encyclopedia Britannica (2018). Jacques Derrida. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 26, 2018. Available at //www.britannica.com/biography/Jacques-Derrida.
  • Lawlor, L. (2018). Jacques Derrida. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved June 26, 2018. Available at //plato.stanford.edu/entries/derrida/.

PHILOSOPHY: Jacques Derrida (June 2024).


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