Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) was a French philosopher who became famous for his ideas on deconstruction.
Derrida argued that Western society has wrongly been under the dominance of what he called “logo-centrism” which has led to the oppression of many groups. According to Derrida, Western civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks has made a distinction between logos and mythos. Logos represents reason and order while mythos represents superstition and matters contrary to reason. Derrida asserted that the West’s logo-centrism led to the common assumption that non-Western traditions were often fanatical and unenlightened. This was the Western view of Eastern Europe during the Cold War and Islamic states of today. For Derrida, societies that adopt a logo-centric approach often end up oppressing others under the guise of possessing some alleged truth.
Starting in 1967, Derrida wrote a series of three books that set forth his ideas concerning deconstruction (Speech and Phenomena, Of Grammatology, and Writing and Difference). Derrida’s deconstruction approach involved an analysis of literature, linguistics, and philosophy. It attempted to peel away or untie the historical and ideological layers in texts. Derrida’s approach challenged traditional views for understanding language and texts, especially the idea that texts primarily reveal an author’s intent. According to Derrida, there are several legitimate interpretations of a text and the reader’s interpretation is just as important as the author’s. Deconstruction, therefore, was a blow against authorial intent and it allegedly revealed that there are multiple layers of meaning in texts.
Derrida’s deconstruction approach has negative implications for philosophy. Attempts to view matters objectively are doomed to failure. Plus, philosophers are in no better position to understand reality than the average person on the street. Thus, Derrida’s deconstruction appeared to call into the question the necessity of traditional centers of knowledge such as universities and colleges.