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Dialectics Beyond Dialectics

Translated by Cain Elliott and Jan Burzyński

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Malgorzata Kowalska

Dialectics beyond Dialectics is a study of contemporary French philosophy from Bataille to Derrida. It analyses, on the first level of generalization, the decomposition of Hegelianism understood as philosophy of totality. Many French philosophers of the 20 th century deconstruct Hegelian dialectics and harshly criticize the very idea of totality as either dangerous or impossible. The thesis of the book is that, on doing so, they do not really break with dialectics, but transform it. On the second level of generalization, the issue of the book is modernity and the thesis is that transformations of dialectics reveal transformations of modern consciousness which – despite hasty declarations on the end of modernity – still remains ours.
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Chapter 3: Deconstruction of différance

Extract

Chapter 3

Deconstruction of différance

Although Derrida’s philosophy in many respects resembles Deleuze’s thought – especially because they both posit the inextricable relation between the concepts of difference and repetition – Derrida takes on a radically different approach to the author of Difference and Repetition. As distinct from the latter’s philosophy, Derrida’s writings not only do not assume a systematic form, but they are also more indirect and, as it were, “shier.” Derrida does not articulate his premises and conclusions in an explicit manner and he does not have the ambition to create an ontology. In fact, if his philosophy is an ontology, it is so only implicitly and against itself. It maintains itself by the reading of other’s texts, and manifests itself especially as a method of reading, which trails through texts in search of difference, ambiguity, and equivocality. It is called “deconstruction.”

In order to tentatively describe both the goal of this method and the ways in which it operates, let us refer to several passages where Derrida lays out the principles of deconstruction. The passages that I shall discuss can be called “methodological.” Let us begin with Derrida’s “Ends of Man,” which is a brief and relatively clear outline of deconstruction.

The goal of deconstruction is to “shake the metaphysical tradition,” to disturb the traditional metaphysical system of concepts in a way that “the telos of presence,” which it presupposes, can be exposed as mystification.54 In order to achieve this...

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