Death of French philosopher Derrida

11th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 9 (AFP) - Jacques Derrida, one of France's best-known philosophers and the founder of the deconstructionist school, has died of cancer at the age of 74, his entourage said Saturday.

PARIS, Oct 9 (AFP) - Jacques Derrida, one of France's best-known philosophers and the founder of the deconstructionist school, has died of cancer at the age of 74, his entourage said Saturday.  

He had been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in 2003.  

Derrida's prolific writings, criticised by some as obscure and nihilist, argue that in literature - but also in fields such as art, music, architecture - there are multiple meanings not necessarily intended or even understood by the creator of the work.  

"To 'deconstruct' is to take an idea, institution or value and understand its mechanisms by removing the cement that makes it up," one critic has said.  

Born in Algeria in 1930 Derrida went to France's celebrated Ecole Normale Superieur in 1952, then became an assistant professor at Harvard in the United States and the Sorbonne in Paris.  

Throughout his life he taught both in France and in the United States.   Among the influences on his thought were the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.  

"(Deconstruction) is in the first instance a philosophical theory and a theory directed towards the (re)reading of philosophical writings," according to John Lye of Brock University in Ontario, Canada.  

"Its impact on literature... is based in part on the fact that deconstruction sees all writing as a complex historical, cultural process rooted in the relations of texts to each other and in the institutions and conventions of writing," said Brock.  

Deconstructivism is also known for the "intensity of its sense that human knowledge is not as controllable or as cogent as Western thought would have it and that language operates in subtle and often contradictory ways, so that certainty will always elude us."  

Derrida was not always appreciated by fellow academics. When Britain's Cambridge University planned to award him an honorary degree in 1992 many staff protested and his writings were denounced as "absurd doctrines that deny the distinction between reality and fiction."  

In the end his degree was approved by 336 votes to 204.   In 1981 the Czech authorities put him in prison for several days because of his public backing for the intellectuals who had published Charter 77, calling for greater freedom.  

Married to a psychoanalyst, he was a grandfather. He had a child with Sylviane Agacinski, now married to former socialist leader Lionel Jospin, of whom he was a political ally during the 1995 presidential election.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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