Derrida watch

Reading obituaries; comment pieces; jokey, dismissive jibes; personal tributes; and public commemorations: it’s still clear that pretty much no-one knows what to say about JD. About JD the man there’s a consensus, from those who had met him at least, that he was modest, self-effacing, serious about thought, but very much human. All of which can be gathered from his books too, of course. If there’s a need for more robust defenses of his thought, like this one from Terry Eagleton in The Guardian, it might be for this reason: ask the British ‘intelligentsia’, by and large celebrity opinion-mongers and little more, what they think of Derrida, and they’re faced with two options. Admit that they don’t really get Derrida, and look stupid in front of everyone who has no pretensions to have read or understood him, and in comparison with their less modest colleagues; or make some comments about what they think Derrida might be about, or about what it’s generally agreed that Derrida’s about — and look stupid only in front of those who actually know better. It being Britain, those who know better are by and large not in a position to point this out. And probably despise the chatterati anyway. I’ve had my own go at explaining deconstruction in basic terms, on its way to publication in here. I’m sure there are other ways to do it though, possibly better, more accurate, more convincing and persuasive ones. Boiled down to platitudes (deconstruction says ‘yes’; deconstruction says ‘be open’; deconstruction says ‘don’t be sure about being sure’) there’s pretty much nothing left: but this makes Derrida like any philosopher worth reading, i.e. only worth reading slowly.