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Derridas Of Grammatology Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was an Algerian-born French philosopher who made important contributions to the philosophy

of language, aesthetics, and phenomenology. He taught at the Sorbonne from 1960-64, at thecole Normale Suprieure from 1960-84, and at various American universities, including Johns Hopkins, Yale, and the University of California at Irvine. His major works include De la grammatologie (1967, Of Grammatology), L'criture et la diffrance (1967, Writing and Difference), La dissmination (1972, Dissemination), Positions (1972, Positions), Marges de la philosophie (1972, Margins of Philosophy), and La carte postale de Socrate Freud et au-del (1980, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond). Of Grammatology (1967) is an examination of the relation between speech and writing, and it is an investigation of how speech and writing develop as forms of language. Derrida argues that writing has often been considered to be derived from speech, and he says that this attitude has been reflected in many philosophic and scientific investigations of the origin of language. He says that the tendency to consider writing as an expression of speech has led to the assumption that speech is closer than writing to the truth or logos of meaning and representation. He explains that the development of language occurs through an interplay of speech and writing and that because of this interplay, neither speech nor writing may properly be described as being more important to the development of language. Of Grammatology is divided into two parts. Part I is entitled "Writing before the Letter," and Part II is entitled "Nature, Culture, Writing." Part I describes traditional views of the origin of writing, and explains how these views have subordinated the theory of writing to the theory of speech. Part II uses this explanatory method to deconstruct various texts in such fields as linguistics (Saussures Course in General Linguistics), anthropology (Lvi-Strausss Tristes Tropiques), and philosophy (Rousseaus Essay on the Origin of Languages). "Logocentrism" is the attitude that logos (the Greek term for speech, thought, law, or reason) is the central principle of language and philosophy.1 Logocentrism is the view that speech, and not writing, is central to language. Thus, "grammatology" (a term that Derrida uses to refer to the science of writing) can liberate our ideas of writing from being subordinated to our ideas of speech. Grammatology is a method of investigating the origin of language which enables our concepts of writing to become as comprehensive as our concepts of speech. According to logocentrist theory, speech is the original signifier of meaning, and the written word is derived from the spoken word. The written word is thus a representation of the spoken word. Logocentrism asserts that language originates as a process of thought that produces speech, and it asserts that speech produces writing. Logocentrism is promoted by the theory that a linguistic sign consists of a signifier which derives its meaning from a signified idea or concept. Logocentrism asserts the exteriority of the signifier to the signified. Writing is conceptualized as exterior to speech, and speech is conceptualized as exterior to thought. However, if writing is only a representation of speech, then writing is only a 'signifier of a signifier. Thus, according to logocentrist theory, writing is merely a derivative form of language which draws its meaning from speech. The importance of speech as central to the development of language is emphasized by logocentrist theory, but the importance of writing is marginalized.2

A signifier may be either interior or exterior to other signifiers, according to their relation to the signified. Logocentrism asserts that speech has a quality of interiority, and that writing has a quality of exteriority. However, Derrida argues that the play of difference between speech and writng is the play of difference between interiority and exteriority. Writing cannot be fully understood if it is viewed merely as an external representation of speech. Logocentrism is inadequate if we want to understand the full importance of writing. The play of difference between interiority and exteriority reveals that writing is both exterior and interior to speech and that speech is both interior and exterior to writing. This play of difference between speech and writing also means that interiority and exteriority are erased. The outside is, and is not, the inside. Outside and inside become inadequate concepts to describe either speech or writing. According to logocentrist theory, speech may be a kind of presence, because the speaker is simultaneously present for the listener, but writing may be a kind of absence, because the writer is not simultaneously present for the reader. Writing may be regarded by logocentrist theory as a substitute for the simultaneous presence of writer and reader. If the reader and the writer were simultaneously present, then the writer would communicate with the reader by speaking instead of by writing. Logocentrism thus asserts that writing is a substitute for speech, and that writing is an attempt to restore the presence of speech. Logocentrism is described by Derrida as a "metaphysics of presence," which is motivated by a desire for a "transcendental signified."3 A "transcendental signified" is a signified which transcends all signifiers, and is a meaning which transcends all signs. A "transcendental signified" is also a signified concept or thought which transcends any single signifier, but which is implied by all determinations of meaning. The "transcendental signified" may be deconstructed by an examination of the assumptions which underlie the "metaphysics of presence." For example, if presence is assumed to be the essence of the signified, then the proximity of a signifier to the signified may imply that the signifier is able to reflect the presence of the signified. If presence is assumed to the essence of the signified, then the remoteness of a signifier from the signified may imply that the signifier is unable, or may only be barely able, to reflect the presence of the signified. This interplay between proximity and remoteness is also an interplay between presence and absence, and between interiority and exteriority. "Differance" is a term which Derrida uses to describe the origin of presence and absence. Differance is indefinable, and it annot be explained by the "metaphysics of presence." In French, the verb "diffrer" means both "to defer" and "to differ." Thus, differance may refer not only to the state or quality of being deferred, but to the state or quality of being different. Differance may be the condition for that which is deferred, and it may be the condition for that which is different. Differance may be the condition for difference. Derrida explains that differance is the condition for the opposition of presence and absence.4 Differance is also the "hinge" between speech and writing and between inner meaning and outer representation. The term "arche-writing" is uded by Derrida to describe a form of language which cannot be conceptualized within the "metaphysics of presence." "Arche-writing" is an original form of language which is not derived from speech. "Arche-writing" is a form of language which is

unhindered by the difference between speech and writing. "Arche-writing" is also a condition for the play of difference between written and non-written forms of language. Derrida contrasts the concept of "arche-writing" with the "vulgar" concept of writing. The "vulgar" concept of writing, which is proposed by the "metaphysics of presence," is deconstructed by the concept of "arche-writing."5 Derrida criticizes the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure and the structuralist theory of Claude Lvi-Strass for promoting logocentrism. Derrida criticizes Saussure for saying that the purpose for which writing exists is to represent speech. According to Saussurean linguistics, the articulation of spoken language depends on a mechanism (which Derrida calls a "hinge") by which ideas are connected to sound-images, and the articulation of written language depends on a mechanism by which written words are connected to spoken words. Derrida criticizes Saussure's theory of language for promoting both logocentrism and phonocentrism. Derrida argues that writing may be either phonetic or non-phonetic. Nonphonetic writing may be pictorial, ideographic, or symbolic. Writing may also have a multidimensional structure which may not be subordinated to the temporality of sound.6 Writing as a linear realization of vocalization may be conceptualized as an unfolding of a kind of presence, and Saussure's theory of language may therefore be described as a "metaphysics of presence." Saussure teaches that spoken language is a process by which ideas are connected with sound-images, but Derrida explains that a single phonetic signifier may have multiple phonetic values and that these phonetic values may have a range of variation. Derrida argues that Saussure does not consider the range of differences which may occur between phonetic signifiers, and that Saussure's theory of language is inadequate to describe the play of difference between speech and writing. Thus, "grammatology" deconstructs the theory of the relation between spoken and written language which is promoted by Saussure, and instead explores the true symbolic power of writing. Derrida criticizes Lvi-Strauss for not adequately recognizing that logocentrism may promote ethnocentrism. Derrida argues that logocentrism may promote ethnocentrism if it encourages the retelling of myths about the origin of language and if it promotes misunderstanding of the relation between speech and writing. Derrida also argues that the structuralist approach to anthropology may encourage ethnocentrism if it is mainly concerned with comparing different cultures according to their use of writing. An unbiased approach to cultural anthrology must recognize that the use of writing may in some cases become a form of cultural or social domination, by which those who use writing may attempt to subjugate those who do not use writing. Derrida provides an extended commentary on Rousseaus Essay on the Origin of Languages in order to investigate Rousseau's theory that writing is a supplement to speech. Derrida criticizes Rousseaus statement that writing is nothing but a representation of speech. Derrida explains that the function of writing is not merely to substitute for the presence of speech, and that writing is not merely an effort to recover a missing or lost presence. Writing is not merely a kind of absence, which must reappropriate a kind of presence from other forms of language in order to restore presence to itself. According to Rousseau, writing may become a "dangerous supplement" if it is used as a substitute for speech. Writing may subvert any meaning which may be intended by speech. The substitution of writing for speech also implies that speech is closer than writing to the

original nature of language. Thus, Rousseau argues that writing may corrupt the original nature of language. However, Derrida argues that even if writing is viewed as a supplement to speech, writing may still add meaning to speech, and it may still provide a kind of presence. However, if writing is viewed as merely a supplement to speech, then it may be viewed as merely an external addition to speech. The argument that writing is a supplement to speech may also suggest that there is a loss of presence in speech which must be supplemented by writing. If an absence expands within the presence of speech, then writing may become a means of recovering whatever presence is lacking. Thus, writing cannot properly be viewed merely as absence, just as speech cannot properly be viewed merely as presence. Speech may occur within writing, and writing may occur within speech. Derrida also explains that writing may occur either before or after speech. Writing may in some cases express a passion or need which exists prior to speech. The cry of passion, or the cry of need, may be articulated by singing, shouting, gesturing, speaking, and by writing.