"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
While he had a huge following - larger in the United States than in Europe - he was the target of as much anger as admiration. For many Americans, in particular, he was the personification of a French school of thinking they felt was undermining many of the traditional standards of classical education, and one they often associated with divisive political causes.
Literary critics broke texts into isolated passages and phrases to find hidden meanings. Advocates of feminism, gay rights, and third-world causes embraced the method as an instrument to reveal the prejudices and inconsistencies of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Freud and other "dead white male" icons of Western culture. Architects and designers could claim to take a "deconstructionist" approach to buildings by abandoning traditional symmetry and creating zigzaggy, sometimes disquieting spaces.
From the Telegraph obit:
While his followers acclaimed him a playful genius of language, critics said he merely created an obscure form of relativism, in which anything could mean anything. His famously difficult and literary style made him particularly unpopular among many English and American philosophers, most of them reared in the tradition of plain-speaking Anglo-Saxon thought.
Matters reached a head in 1992 when 20 philosophers, including the renowned formal logician, W V Quine, signed a letter to Cambridge University protesting at the award of an honorary doctorate to Prof Derrida.
On the continent, however, Prof Derrida was a celebrated figure - akin to a pop star among students.
In recent years, he began to intervene regularly in political debates. In a debate on global terrorism, he refused to describe September 11 attacks as an act of "international terrorism", arguing that "an act of 'international terrorism' is anything but a rigorous concept that would help us grasp the singularity of what we are trying to discuss".
By denying objective reality beyond texts, deconstructionism makes "morality as arbitrary as penmanship," argues Peter Kreeft. "If you didn't believe in objective truth, arguments would be just toys, or games, or jokes."
Deconstructionism, Kreeft writes, is the decadent "end of sanity and civilization" -- a philosophy that should be confronted as if it were "an evil, perverted, nasty little kid smashing a chandelier with a hammer."
His intellectual legacy essentially is to have articulated a theory proposing that communication is impossible. Think about that for a second, because that's what deconstruction really is: a theory that argues communication is impossible. As one critic of deconstruction has pointed out: "It is a contradiction to say that nothing can be said, and a multiple contradiction to say it at length."
[H]e is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States — a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks — into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale. History will remember Derrida, and it surely will, not for what he himself has said but for what his revered status says about us.