Advice to Derrida from Kotsko

Link to post here:

Full piece to save clix:

Perhaps [weasel-word!] something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an “event,” if this loaded word [loaded according to whom?] did not entail a meaning which it is precisely the function [is this really its only function?] of structural–or structuralist–thought [which is it?] to reduce or to suspect [again, which?]. But let me use the word “event” anyway, employing it with caution and as if in quotation marks. In this sense, this event will have the exterior form of a rupture and a redoubling [why? Unpack this].

It would be easy enough to show [then show it! This is a big generalization that you never support!] that the concept of structure and even the word “structure” itself are as old as the episteme [is this a reference to Foucault? In that case, cite]–that is to say, as old as western science and western philosophy [this is a big claim, citation?]–and that their roots thrust deep into the soil of ordinary language, into whose deepest recesses the episteme plunges to gather them together once more, making them part of itself in a metaphorical displacement [unclear — I think I see what you’re getting at, but it could be expanded and unpacked a bit more]. Nevertheless, up until the event which I wish to mark out and define [maybe you should lead off with what this event is supposed to be, rather than making the reader wait? I’m already losing the thread], structure–or rather the structurality of structure–although it has always [careful with these generalizations] been involved, has always been neutralized or reduced, and this by a process of giving it a center or referring it to a point of presence [this feels jargony to me], a fixed origin. The function of this center was not only to orient, balance, and organize the structure–one cannot in fact conceive of an unorganized structure–but above all to make sure that the organizing principle of the structure would limit what we might call the freeplay of the structure [what does this mean? Unpack]. No doubt [this does not seem as immediately obvious to me] that by orienting and organizing the coherence of the system, the center of a structure permits the freeplay of its elements inside the total form. And even today the notion of a structure lacking any center represents the unthinkable itself [this seems a bit overblown — maybe nuance?].

Also Jon Cogburn’s perspective:



2 thoughts on “Advice to Derrida from Kotsko

  1. I would like to refer to my comments elsewhere on this blog, about (a lack of) criteria: the hollow rhetoric of Anglo-Saxon (or analytical) philosophy with regards to Continental philosophy (Derrida etc), about a lack of clarity and meaning etc. tries to hide the equally obscure self-referential language games in analytical philosophy (AS). The Searle-Derrida controversy is (very) old evidence of this and I am sad to see these parlour games continue to posture as genuine philosophy. On the whole, both traditions have (both in their own very different way) very much lost touch with anything that is not banal (except, I believe, small pockets of excellence in some non-obvious (as ever!) parts of the academy), that anyone can possibly genuinely care about, anything that Socrates, Kant, Nietzsche or Wittgenstein, i.e. those that shaped this discipline (that we gratefully indulge in) have cared about or would care about would they be around today. Both traditions have now reverted to talking about talking, to self-referential linguistic cleverness: the “linguistic turn” taken a few steps too far. The AS armchair tradition in its alleged interest in clarity about how the world ‘really is’, mostly refuses to connect with the real world in the way of scientific discovery about human nature, the increasingly powerful explanatory accounts of our behaviour: it mostly refuses to read the research but believes it can comment on these issues regardless. The Continental tradition, following Derrida, actually confirms the AS practice when it commits itself to Derrida’s “Il n’y a pas de hors texte”: there is nothing about words that is not just more words. Both disciplines are committed to the parlour game of talking about talking… This is incorrect, both traditions are mistaken. But whilst they engage in talking about talking, they obstinately refuse to engage with the really hard-won knowledge of the linguists who know so much more about what it is to talk.

    The lack of criteria, and more broadly, the lack of any engagement with daily life (as just one criterion) of both ‘schools’ of philosophy runs the risk of having all future funding for this great tradition disappear. As Dummett himself has said: it is not clear that if philosophy were not on the academic agenda by (historical) default, society today would decide to put it on the curriculum. What would be its criteria to decide to do so?

    • Some heart-warming feedback on this topic from the Leiter Reports, academic philosophy’s leading blog (

      What is your opinion of feminist philosophy?

      A central, foundational part of the discipline 6%
      A major area of research 19%
      Useful when integrated with traditional philosophical questions in epistemology, ethics, political philosophy etc 27%
      A minor area of research 16%
      Politics masquerading as philosophy, not a real subject 32%

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