Derrida For Beginners
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Philosophy 20th century
by: Jim Powell
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From the back cover: Derrida is one of those annoying geniuses you can take a class on, read half-a-dozen books by and still have no idea what hes talking about. Derrida's writing is definitely confusing (its like hes pulling the rug out from under the rug that he pulled out from under philosophy). But beneath the confusion, like the heartbeat of a bird in your hand, you can feel Derridas electric genius. It draws you to it; you want to understand itbut its so confusing. This book is the clearest explanation of Derrida and deconstruction presently available in our solar system. The author, Jim Powell, guides us through blindingly obscure texts like Grammatology (Derridas deconstruction of Saussure, Lvi Strauss, Roussseau), Diff rance (his essay on language and life), Dissemination (his dismantling of Plato, his rap on Mallarm), along with his other masterpieces.
We don't think that Derrida's 'Deconstruction' is holistic necessarily but the gist of it explains the inherent problems of doing philosophy.
Unlike some of the "greats" of Science who simplify complex ideas (e.g., Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman), the guru's of philosophy take fairly straightforward ideas and shroud them with such mysterious-sounding proprietary language that their work becomes nearly impossible to decipher. Derrida is no exception, which is a shame because his underlying message is brilliant...and really not not all that abstract.
So until philosophers realize that less words does not directly translate to less intelligence, we should be very glad to have commentators like this book's author Jim Powell explain things.
"Derrida For Beginners" concentrates on developing the key concept of "differance" and defining the necessary Derridian terminology used to communicate its meaning. The book clearly defines, "binary opposites", "texts", "logocentricism" etc.. and has plenty of diagram's to help you get the idea. While we can't say the comic artwork did much for us, the cartoon setting does force the message to be carried across succinctly...no babbling. After failing miserably to tackle "Of Grammatology" we read "Derrida" by Christopher Norris. While this was a good-enough introduction, we will say that after reading "Derrida for Beginners" we went back and read most of Norris' book again and got a lot more out of it. Try this: read "Derrida for Beginners" as many times as needed until you have all the words in bold print at your fingertips..then, read Norris' book "Derrida". With this few hours of investment, do some online searches and read some of the commentaries and criticism of Derrida. You will be surprised at how badly he is misunderstood by so many who have studied him a lot more then you, and should feel good about your knowledge in comparisom. Of course you then need to get humble again so start reading the original French-text version "Of Grammatology"!