by Bill Nugent
Jacques Derrida’s postmodernist philosophy of Deconstruction is having a profound influence on politics, culture and commerce. Deconstruction is a form of literary analysis that has gone far from the ivory tower of mere discussion and has filtered down into every aspect of our society.
Deconstruction is a method of dissecting and understanding any literary text, be it the US constitution or a work of Shakespeare, that gives it a meaning radically different from what the author intended. It can be called the death of the author and the sovereignty of the reader. It can be called the death of authority. Author and authority are related terms. Hence deconstructionism is the very spear point of rebellion against traditional communication.
Jacques Derrida was born in French Algeria to a Sephardic Jewish family in 1930. He was expelled from school on the first day of class in 1942 because of the anti-Semitic quota systems of the Vichy French government. He didn’t attend the alternative Jewish school that had formed but took a year off and read the philosophical works of Nietzsche, Rousseau and Gide.
Here we have the supreme irony of a young Jewish boy reading Nietzsche, a philosopher who was anti-God, anti-religion and laid the ground work for nazism. Hitler gave out copies of Nietzsche’s books as gifts. Derrida was reading Nietzsche’s works during the Holocaust.
Nietzsche was a radical atheistic existentialist philosopher who can be considered to be one of the founding fathers of postmodern philosophy. Nietzsche’s writings are radically rebellious even to the point of rebelling against the authority of language. Nietzsche wrote that words have no fixed meaning but are like a hall of mirrors that simply reflect each other.
Derrida apparently picked up the rebellion from what he read during that time and wrote that he came to hate the family and hate the society that the family produced.
He entered a career as a teacher. During the Algerian war in the late 1950s he taught soldier’s children in lieu of military service. In the early 60s he taught philosophy at the Sorbonne, one of the most prominent universities in France.
Derrida coined the term “deconstruction” in his 1967 book “Of Grammatica.” He preferred the softer term “deconstruction” to the more direct term “destruction” used by Heidegger. Martin Heidegger, an existentialist, postmodernist philosopher, had a strong influence on Derrida. Hitler called Heidegger his favorite philosopher.
There are three major systems of western philosophy. Christianphilosophy regards moral truth as fixed, absolute and applying equally to all cultures at all times because it is given by revelation from God and is written in the Bible. The Ten Commandments are an example of divinely revealed truth. Rational proof of the divine inspiration of the Bible is given by the many hundreds of predictive prophecies contained in the Bible and the fulfillment of those prophecies down through history.
Modern philosophy has its main source in the eighteenth century Enlightenment and regards truth as something not given by God but merely discovered by the human mind through rational thought processes. Utilitarianism is an example of modern philosophy. Evolution is the origins myth of modernism and socialist utopia is its eschatological goal.
Postmodern philosophy as taught by Nietzsche, Heidegger, De Man, Derrida and others is a rejection of absolute truth. (Absolute truth is the idea that morals are fixed, have real authority and apply to all people at all times.) Postmodernists believe that truth is not given by God nor discovered by reason but is simply manufactured by the human mind and imposed on others through texts. To them the US constitution is a mere power ploy written by the founding fathers to bring people into subjection to themselves. Phenomenology is an example of postmodern philosophy. Evolution is the origins myth of postmodernism and heat death of the universe (universal annihilation) is its eschatology.
Some people confuse postmodernism and deconstruction and regard them as one and the same. Actually postmodernism is a broad term and deconstruction is a small subset of postmodernism. Deconstruction is postmodernism applied to literature.
Deconstruction, promoted by Derrida, De Man and many hundreds of college professors involves a highly subjective and often cynical critique of literary texts. The method is to look for nuances in the wording to discover sexism or racism or anti-homosexual sentiment or any number of things that would supposedly reflect the hidden motives of the author.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet could be deconstructed to allege an obsession with class warfare on the part of Shakespeare and perhaps a hidden motive on Shakespeare’s part to undermine the societal class system. Thus a great work of literature is cynically reduced to a craven exercise of power. The author is trashed and the reader is exalted. The reader is given the final say on what a text means.
If deconstructionists restricted their musings to classical literature it would be of minor concern but when judges who were educated by postmodernists take on the US Constitution the result is a loss of political freedom.
The constitution and every legal document contains words that have precise limited meanings as defined in contemporaneous legal dictionaries. The semantic range of the meaning of words is strictly and precisely limited. That’s why legal documents are filled with complex language and complex sentence structure. The precise language gives clarity and strict limits on the meaning of laws.
Tyranny comes about when judges expand the semantic range of words in order to read their subjective political opinions into contracts, laws and even the constitution. A prime example is the 1973 Roe vs Wade opinion of the US Supreme Court. The majority of the Supreme Court justices discovered the right to abortion by “emanations and penumbras” from words in the bill of rights and the 14th amendment to the constitution. The radical expansion of the meaning of words is a subjective, arbitrary misinterpretation of a legal document.
More than 40 million preborn babies lost their lives in the US as a result of Roe vs Wade and the other pro-abortion decisions of the court. There are many other examples of how activist judges at all levels of the judiciary expand the meaning of words to impose elitist social engineering.
I hesitate to point out how deconstructionists could view the Bible. The Bible teaches that all human life is sacred because human beings are created in the image of God. God sent the Messiah (Christ), in fulfillment of over 300 predictive Bible prophecies to die for the sins of the people. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!