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Pun in French[edit]

Différance may be a pun in French, but shouldn't the reader get something to explain the apparent solipsism in spelling? --Wetman 06:51, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm not at all sure what you mean by "solipsism" here. I agree, if this is your meaning, that it might be best for the article to explain in more detail why the word is typically left untranslated when the English coinage "differance" seems so similar. (There are two main reasons: one is the French homonym meaning "deferring" as well as "differing," a double meaning unavailable to the English version of the pun and important in Derrida's work; the second is that early translations did it this way, and later ones have followed their lead for consistency.) -- Rbellin|Talk 07:17, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I think he means "solecism". Epic fail. 16:35, 27 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There is a difference of readings with each rereading. Adrift on a sea of words, we suffer from an epistemological seasickness.

Gee, finally someone has precisely expressed how I always feel whenever I read poststructuralist writing!! 21:03, 7 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Positive Bias[edit]

I'm still new at this, so I don't want to jump into any major revisions; but it seems like there's a tone of piety running throughout this article. How can one justify a sentence like this: "Différance itself, is neither a word, nor a concept, nor a thing." without mentioning how ludicrous this statement is? Of course it's a word! Derrida's claim is completely disingenuous. This sentence could at the very least be proceeded by "Derrida claimed" or something. Every section is presented this way, without creating any distance between Derrida and the supposedly unbiased article. One of the worst examples is the section on Negative Theology: "Derrida's non-concept of différance," it says, "resembles, but is not, negative theology." Really? Why? Who says?

The section entitled "Illustration of Différance" is completely inadequate as well. The author betrays a foggy understanding of the concepts "signifier" and "signified", and an ignorance of the fact that the model of semantics that Derrida used (the Saussurean idea that words only gain meaning through their difference from other words) was debunked decades ago. Language just doesn't work that way. (See "The Poverty of Structuralism" by Leonard Jackson, or any introductory linguistics textbook.)

There is no section on criticisms whatsoever. The reader is left with the impression that "différance" must be real, even though it seems completely nonsensical. Huple scat 22:35, 20 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree completely. The article still has the tone of a religious revival. This needs help from somebody who is not a Derridean.....:)--BenJonson (talk) 05:17, 26 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You make some good points, I dont think however that it is necessary to precede every statement with "Derrida claims" since it is clear from the outset and the title, that this is all Derrida's ideas. You could imagine a whole book written at one distance from the material, it becomes redundant decoration. The piety you refer to is perhaps justified by the enormous amount of work Derrida put into this attempt to synthesis many, many, often difficult thinkers.

The point about criticisms of Saussure would be better included on Saussure's page. As to someone called Jackson, well, never heard of him, though there is always a clamouring to criticise Derrida, envy and his own mistakes, no doubt, are at source. In any case Derrida was not a structuralist nor post-structuralist.

You omit to suggest what these criticisms were? Do they apply to Saussure or to Derrida? Are they an attempt at a reaction or did they appear before Derrida's work? Would it be suitable material to include in a criticisms section? Do the illustrated terms signifier/signified now mean something other than what Saussure meant when he invented the terms?

Note also that in the Continental tradition, which you appear to be not so familiar with: rarely is anyone, wholly, 100% "debunked".

The problem with criticising Saussure in order to criticise Derrida, is that Derrida goes far beyond Saussurean semiotics, for Derrida the context is crucial for understanding language and not just the signs and their signifier/signified, "There is nothing outside the [con]text" is one of his well known sayings.

As for negative theology, like the rest of the article it was Derrida who claimed it not to be negative theology, I think this is so because he is not talking of God or of différance (note the small 'd') being god-like, it is more of a humble nothing than a super something.

As to it not being a word or a concept, well what is the difference between two words? Another word? I don't think so, it is not an arithmetic, it's more like a geometry, what's the difference between a square and a triangle? It's not another closed figure.


Evidently "différance" is a word, which is why it is able to have an encyclopedia entry. It is clearly a concept also, since the word refers to an specific idea. The "difference between two words" may not be a word, but the word for it certainly is. Furthermore, whether or not you have heard Leonard Jackson does not, for me at least, necessarily disqualify his analysis. Irrespective of what Derrida might have called himself, Jackson's book includes an extensive critique of his work, as you will see if you actually read the book rather than simply dismissing it as the work of the "envious".
Regarding this comment: "Note also that in the Continental tradition, which you appear to be not so familiar with: rarely is anyone, wholly, 100% 'debunked'." If you reread my statement you'll notice that I actually never implied that anyone was "100% debunked". I said that the differential theory of semantics was debunked. Saussure believed that words acquired meaning through pure difference with no positive terms. Imagine if this were the case: we must suppose that the image of a cat that exists in our heads is composed only of negative associations to everything that is not a cat. Is this remotely plausible? If you have a pet cat, do you recognise it only by running through your entire vocabulary to establish what it isn't (not a dog, not a toilet, not a bookshelf, not an Empire State Building, etc.)? I suggest not. So Saussure's theory has been debunked. Language could not operate without positive terms. The meaning behind the word "cat", for example, is likely composed of the terms "+animal", "+four-legged", "+pet", or something similar. The word "aunt" can only conceivably acquire meaning if we use not only positive terms, but associations as well (sister of parent).
Finally, the reason that criticising Saussure is so pertinent to criticising Derrida is that, without this concept of meaning with no positive terms, Derrida's whole theory of "différance" goes out the window. If semantics contains positive terms, then all words do not constantly differ and defer. It means that Derrida's hypothetical "infinite play" does not in fact exist as real function of human language.
Huple scat 05:52, 25 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well I'm sorry I didnt mean to discredit the book you refer to I did also mention Derrida's errors as being a reason for criticism. I suppose what I'm saying is that the criticism is perhaps good and if I read it I'd know better of course, but I'm not sure if it has really taken hold of anyone's imagination other than those who may already feel like debunking something though for me it is a little strange since I never thought Derrida was already in the bunk. Though I dont believe Saussure was debunked decades ago, as I said already, rarely are these things debunked 100%.
I dont think Derrida tried to claim that there were no positive terms, what he tried to claim, was a little like Wittgenstein II, when he gave a very cogent criticsm of the picture theory of meaning, ie, the one that you seem to indicate is the basis for this book. The picture theory goes all the way back to Augustine and before; what Saussure and Derrida tried to bring out was that there was no simple one-to-one, word-picture, relation, other than for children of 4 or 5.
Take, for example, the colour orange, no doubt you will say it more or less maps to the color of the fruit. The question is what did red and yellow mean before orange was introduced, what did they mean after? Afterwards, presumably, red and yellow, no longer covered orange as it did before they were pushed back to a narrower spectrum in so far as they differed from orange. Each word has a history, its introductions its narrowings and widening, euphemisings, etc.
Your own examples give us a start, cat: four-legged, animal, pet Cat is all of these, but is not just one of them, it differs from each single term, it is also as animal, something different from inamimate matter, etc.
What he also claims is that the history of philosophy has always been fixated on self-present ever the same idealities, verita aeternitas. He wants to move away from that an to fully appreciate the roles of absence and difference rather than presence and sameness.
Take another example: you tell me of a new word, you describe it (or I hear you use it) as being like some other word but not the same as it, a little less like another, etc.. The same/different relation is what Derrida refers to with différance, it includes sameness, eg, male female are different but also the same in being of sex. The sameness of repetition is another aspect he addresses but moreso in his related ideas of dissemination.
As to différance not being a word, please note the 'a', this is a deliberate misspelling. It means that the normal word, différence with an 'e' is not the one being referred to, it takes four words to say this in speech, though it might be immediately clear in writing if yoiu knew it were not a mistake and looked closely at all the letters. But speech is, before Derrida, the "gold standard" for language, so there it needs three words since both the 'e' one and the 'a' one, sound the same, so it is not "a word," not a single word; more importantly, he wants to say it is not a word in the traditional sense, ie, with full phonic and conceptual presence to itself, instead it has important connections to context, to the instants it is read/written which are not present now, to history etc.
Let's take this step by step, shall we?
1.The book
I imagine that the reason you are not familiar with Leonard jackson is that he is not a philosopher nor a literary theorist. He is a linguist who has uses hard science to critique the work of literary theorists who make use of linguistic buzzwords and theories without understanding them, like Derrida. Such critiques do nothing to impugn the strictly philosophical concerns of such writers (like the business you mentioned about self-presence and so on), only the claims they make about the nature of real things like language. Because linguistics is not philosophical; it is empirical.
Actually a great many people and theories are debunked all the time. This is modern science's primary method, ever since it was realised that a great deal more progress cold be achieved through attempting to disprove theories than to prove them. For example, the theory of gravity is considered to be true not because it has been proven but because it has not (so far) been disproven. Likewise evolution. That is why they are called 'theories' and not 'facts'. Derrida's philosophical statements cannot be disproven in these terms––it's always possible that they're true, it's just a matter of opinion. His statements about the workings of language on the other hand are scientific claims that can be falsified with the appropriate evidence. 'Différance' as a linguistic function is not an opinion. It is either true or untrue.
Contrary to what you claim, Saussure's model of semantics without positive terms is absolutely key to Derrida's theory of différance. Here is a quote from Saussure taken from Derrida's essay "Différance":
"In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences WITHOUT POSITIVE TERMS."
And here is Derrida's comment on the quote:
"The first consequence to be drawn from this is that the signified concept is never present in and of itself, in a sufficient presence that would refer only to itself. Essentially and lawfully, every concept is inscribed in a chain or in a system within which it refers to the other, to other concepts, by means of the systematic play of differences."
According to Derrida, the infinite play exists in language because each sign refers to every concept that it is not in order to give the semblance of meaning. Therefore, if this theory of how words gain meaning is incorrect, Derrida's entire argument becomes flawed in its foundations. And it is. Here is Jackson's explanation:
"The problem is that difference semantics, despite Saussure's conjecture, won't allow one to describe the meaning of even the simplest words in a language. I mean by that that it is logically impossible to describe the meaning, say, of a simple kinship terms like 'aunt' within the framework of a theory of semantics with a single primitive operator that merely represents the fact that there is a difference between one signifier and another."
Look at the 'cat' example I gave. Clearly I am at fault for causing some confusion here, because 'cat' does not, as you say, differ from the attributes 'four-legged', 'animal', 'pet' and so on. It is the sum of these attributes, because they are not concepts but 'semantic attributes'. They are the positive terms that Saussure claimed did not exist. Likewise look at orange. It is very true that when the word was invented it pushed to other words aside, but it does not gain meaning solely through these differences. There is a positive association between the concept of orange and a specific range of light frequencies that we recognise as orange. So the infinite deferral is stopped short, because we do in fact have a direct link to the 'transcendental signified', as Derrida referred to it.
3.Is Différance a word?
According to the reasoning you gave me, différance is not a word because:
a)it is a deliberate misspelling of différence
b)it sounds like différence
c)it takes 4 words to say that you mean 'différance' and not 'différence'
But 'différance' is not a misspelling. Take the word 'differense', for example. It means 'a root vegetable that grows in the shape of an ostrich and tastes like a rainy summer day.' By providing a definition to this 'misspelling of difference', I have rendered no longer a misspelling but a a word in its own right, EVEN THOUGH it sounds like 'difference'. Because this claim, that it is not a word because it sounds like another word, would have to hold true not only for the original word 'différence' as well, but for every other homophone pair in any language: bred/bread, no/know, be/bee, sea/see, etc. Is 'sea' a word? Of course it is, even though it sounds like 'see'. Furthermore, 'différance' is a concept because the sound denotes a specific idea, Derrida's difference and deferral. Add to all this the fact that, in English which we are using right now, the word 'différance' is clearly unlike any other word in the language in both its spoken and written forms. You do not need four words to disassociate 'différance' from anything.
Huple scat 19:12, 29 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks for the large contribution you made here, and you do make a good argument. To begin with there is a difference between what a linguist does and what a philosopher is trying to do. Derrida is firstly trying to give a kind of synthesis of philosophical thought of Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger and, even, Hegel. Now as to linguistics, as "scientific" theory, well I'm sure some try to do it by following on after the scientific method, however, many would suggest it is not a science, it is half-philosophic. In the philosophic world this scientific method is, to begin with under question, so there is no use trying to argue with me by talking of science as the one right and true way to knowledge. Neither is this just an issue of Derrida's philosophy, major English and US philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Quine, and others agree that the linguistic ideas of Locke and Augustine which the "science" you refer to seems to still hold, and that you seem to prefer, are no longer tenable.

As to the introduction of the word orange, well yes there is an association with the word to the frequency range. If you ask people to divide a smooth spectrum into bands they will see bands of color that match the words they have for colors. Some peoples have different colors in their lexicon, I think the simplest is just white, black and red. So the language they have, in a sense, produces visible bands of color. I presume you would have thought the other way around that the frequency was the basic thing. No doubt there is a frequency link to orange, the question is: who decided to introduce this word? Why decide to pick out that frequency? This gets one on to questions of politics, economics, shipping, etc. and not to the scientific claim that the fruit, as the referent, is the positive term. In any case I was refering to the meaning of red and yellow after orange was introduced. Here you might suggest that blood gives us a positive reference for red, yet how can a theory not based on differences explain how this "positive term" withered after the new word arrived.

Positive terms there are, but not in language.

As to différance being a new homophone, well the thing is that it was not there before. It has, perhaps, become a word, but this was not Derrida's intention. Your new word "differense", is not a new word since nobody uses it, a non-word word is one that is not used, just like "xdfgtreasiop" and the infinity of other non-words.

The problem with calling it a concept is that, according to the theory, it is the very thing that "gives rise" to concepts, it "gave us" the difference between the concept of ego and the concept of the world or non-ego, male/female, etc. It "gave" the meaning to the very word "concept", that comes from the latin for,"to take in one go." It is very difficult to talk of différance without saying "différance with an a" since it, and the usual word, difference, sound the same, share some meaning, and, without the extra qualification, would be easily mixed up. Of course now contexts (eg, a discussion of Derrida) exists that would reduce the confusion but that is after the fact. Contexts do not give us positive terms if you view them as also a part of the broader idea of language and Derrida's overall philosophy and ontology, as arché-writing that Derrida was trying to uncover. How to talk or think about the "Other of language"? Are images the other of language? Do images not work off différance?

The extra "with an a" added to qualify it also shows how a word's meaning can be qualified later on, the meaning of a word is never fully there since it always remains open to revision, this illustrates the sense of deferral in différance. However much, your author, wants to "describe the meaning of even the simplest word", he will never accomplish it completely. He thinks that the dictionary definition of aunt, for example, is enough? Some languages don't even have the word. If I look it up I get more words to describe it, I keep looking them up, more words, you point to a women and say "aunt", I take it as meaning your female relation, you then point to your mother, I take it as meaning my aunt.... People do generally learn the right words but only by relying upon and, being mixed up by, differences and deferrals, and sorry, but they never reach -- that beautiful American expression -- "closure": "Oh Aunt, I always thought that also meant a female friend of my parents and not only a blood relation". --Lucas

Frankly, in the scientific world this philosophical "method" is considered laughable. I may as well be talking to a creationist.
Huple scat 19:12, 29 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, I am surprised, I thought you had to leave all your emotions at the door when you entered that ice-palace you refer to as the "scientific world", glad to see that you, at least, can laugh. Keep laughing!

I'm not going to comment on the content of the article, but the style definitely needs to be changed to be descriptive. We aren't supposed to be speaking as Derrida, but rather describing him, and we should never make bare assertions that are controversial in "our" own voice. Look, for example, at how we treat Wittgenstein's Tractatus: we describe, attributing any claims it makes to Wittgenstein, rather than summarizing it from his voice and stating the claims ourselves. --Delirium 10:05, 26 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I hate to the be the one to point this out, but the "Illustration of Différance" section is just plain incorrect about what différance means in Derrida. Reread the "Linguistics and Grammatology" chapter of OG and you will see that Derrida derives almost all of his claims from the thesis of the arbitrary relation between signifier and signified (which to my knowledge has not been debunked). The basic move is to say that Saussure distinguishes the signifier as an 'external,' temporally conditioned, finite 'object' from the signified as a self-identical ideality (concept) that need not be 'externalized' in the signifier in order to be constituted as such (i.e., as present to consciousness). Saussure makes this distinction in order to say that the signifier is an arbitrary 'addition' to the signified. Of course, Saussure would then further distinguish the spoken from the written signifier in order to say of the latter that it is something like 'an addition to an addition,' since the graphic mark is also held to have only an arbitrary relation to the sounds of speech. In all of these distinctions, Saussure seems to work with the presupposition that the origin of language is the self-identical ideality of the signified in its presence to consciousness. I think the signified in its presence and then 'add' a name in order to 'externalize' that ideality. Derrida's basic claim, however, is that "the thesis of the arbitrariness of the sign thus indirectly but irrevocably contests Saussure's declared proposition when he chases writing to the outer darkness of language" (OG, Spivak translation 45). Put in another way (and in reference to Plato's Phaedrus), Derrida writes that, "writing is the dissimulation of the natural, primary, and immediate presence of sense to the soul within the logos. Its violence befalls the soul as unconsciousness. Deconstructing this tradition will therefore not consist of reversing it, of making writing innocent. Rather of showing why the violence of writing does not befall an innocent language. There is an originary violence of writing because language is first, in a sense I shall gradually reveal, writing" (OG, 37).

Thus, différance is linked to writing. More precisely, it is linked to arche-writing: "[the] concept [of arche-writing] is invoked by the themes of 'the arbitrariness of the sign' and of difference" (57). A little later, Derrida actually equates différance with arch-writing: "arche-writing, movement of différance, irreducible arche-synthesis, opening in one and the same possibility, temporalization as well as relationship with the other and with language, cannot, as the condition of all linguistic systems, form a part of the linguistic system itself and be situated as an object in its field" (60). The appositions here are extremely important: arche-synthesis, temporalization, relation to the other. In short, and I am sorry that I don't have time to fully work this out, différance names the temporalizing synthesis that is the condition of the appearance of a 'self-identical' ideality, but that, as such, grounds this 'self-identity' in the differential structure of the synthesis. This theme of the temporalizing synthesis would have to be linked up to the concepts of the trace and of spacing. As Derrida writes, "the trace is in fact the absolute origin of sense [or meaning - sens] in general. Which amounts to saying once again that there is no absolute origin of sense in general. The trace is the différance which opens appearance and signification… Origin of ideality, the trace is not more ideal than real, not more intelligible than sensible" (65). And a little later: "Spacing (noting that this word speaks the articulation of space and time, the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unperceived, the nonpresent, and the nonconscious… Arche-writing as spacing cannot occur as such within the phenomenological experience of a presence. It marks the dead time within the presence of the living present, within the general form of all presence" (68). It is precisely this 'dead time' that is being described by différance: a 'dead time' that must differ from the 'living present,' but that, as the condition of the 'living present,' must likewise defer toward a living present that is 'not yet' (i.e., cannot be constituted as such prior to the synthesis that would contaminate the 'living present' with the 'dead time' of the trace or spacing, which is to say that the 'living present' cannot be constituted as such). Again, I quote Derrida at length: "if the trace, arche-phenomenon of 'memory,' which must be thought before the opposition of nature and culture, animality and humanity, etc., belongs to the very movement of signification, then signification is a priori written, whether inscribed or not, in one form or another, in a 'sensible' and 'spatial' element that is called 'exterior.' Arche-writing, at first the possibility of the spoken word, then of the 'graphie' in the narrow sense, the birthplace of 'usurpation,' denounced from Plato to Saussure, this trace is the opening of the first exteriority in general, the enigmatic relation of the living to its other and of an inside to an outside: spacing" (70).

I realize that these notes are altogether too brief and elliptical to be of much use. I am sorry that I don't have time to work through this stuff in greater detail. Suffice it to say, however, that while it is certainly true that American reception of Derrida has tended to foster the misunderstanding that différance is another name for the differential constitution of the signifier (and then considers the trace to mean something like "because 'cat' is only itself because it is not 'bat,' 'rat,' 'hat,' etc., therefore 'cat' is inhabited by the 'trace' of these others" - this too is wrong. Again, reread the chapter and you will see that Derrida makes no such claim) - while it is true that these misunderstandings are widespread, they are nevertheless misunderstandings. Hope this might be in some way helpful for whoever decides to take up the extraordinary challenge of rewriting this section. I should add, moreover, that some of the other sections are quite good and very accurate (especially the Stiegler section). 16:12, 29 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences WITHOUT POSITIVE TERMS."
The problem with your criticism of Saussure, Hupple Scat, is that it takes a passage out of context (ironic, no?). It should read: "Everything we have said so far comes down to this. In the language itself, there are only differences. Even more important than that is the fact that, although in general a difference presupposes positive terms between which the differences hold, in a language there are only differences, and no positive terms."
Saussure was here talking about the signifier and signified considered in isolation, that is, he was talking about abstract entities, which he had been previously exploring in the chapter, as indicated by the "so far". But in the paragraphs that follow the quoted passage, he asserts that the sign considered as a whole is a positive term that is merely in opposition to other signs, both syntagmatically and paradigmatically. You should note that he stresses the term difference should be dropped when talking about the sign. It is only to be used for those abstract entities spoken about in the quote.
Furthermore, it is a mistake to believe that Saussure meant you had to literally unconsciously go through an infinite number of signs before finding the one you want. I believe he merely meant that the sign emerges from an unconscious system, which it evokes when it is used. For example, the sign winning is in opposition to the sign losing, which lays dormant while you use the former, even though they are dependent on one another. --Le vin blanc (talk) 04:47, 27 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Regarding revisions to this definition[edit]

For an outsider to the deconstruction of linguistics, this definition of differance provides an outstanding clarification of Derrida's meaning. A concise comprehension of Derrida's term, differance, is vital in understanding the nature of poststructuralism. The validity of this definition cannot be weighed without consideration to poststructuralist deconstruction. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:35, 20 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Example" section very bad[edit]

The example section is neither clear nor helpful--and in some cases comes too close to leading us into a wrong conception. I don't have time now, but I hope someone can revise it--and perhaps also with a non-linguistic example. In general, everything on this page seems too interested in semiotics.

Johnduff (talk) 02:26, 20 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Neographism not neologism[edit]

Différance is not a neologism. This is part of the point. Derrida is attacking logocentism, the 'logism' of neologism. The word différance, with an 'A' being spoken, in logos/speech, is pronounced the exact same as différence, with an 'E.' Différance is a neographism, the change of the 'a' is seen and not heard. Take slang spelling for instance. Spelling the word "fat" as "phat" is not creating a neologism, but rather it is a neographism. I am unsure as to whether or not "neographism" itself was coined by Derrida, but it seems likely.

Maytagman (talk) 17:59, 14 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Derrida can call a tail a leg, but that doesn't make it a leg - David Gerard (talk) 15:44, 27 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

English pronunciation?[edit]

How is the term pronounced in English -- do most academic users of the word adopt the French pronunciation, or do they make it homophonous with difference in English, just as the two are homophonous in French? We should indicate the pronunciation. -- (talk) 15:11, 12 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Most English academic speakers use the French pronunciation. It is standard to pronounce technical terms, e.g. Dasein, ego cogito, etc., using their "native" phonê. Generally speaking, only those who don't take Derrida seriously (such as those in the analytic tradition), or naïve readers (undergraduate students), would fail to understand that despite the two (a/e) not being homophonous in English, its homophony is central to the neographism. Maytagman (talk) 19:05, 25 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Derrida himself said it should be pronounced in English in the same way as the word "difference". (talk) 21:03, 17 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Clarification of Deferral[edit]

The relationship of deferral to the concept (especially in the current "illustration" section) might be clearer if a note is added about the differences between French and English word order; the "complete meaning" is deferred, certainly, in a language in which most adjectives are placed after what they describe. The deferral is not so thoroughly the case in English because of the difference in grammatical standards. (talk) 16:29, 11 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The whole explanation on this basis kind of misses the point. Even in the case of a "complete" sentence, it is essential that it remain, in principle, repeatable (like any element of language). Because a sentence must be infinitely repeatable it must therefore be open to all conceivable changes in context that might alter the meaning. So, assuming it remains physically available, what I've just written could end up, by chance, meaning something else in a different language 2 million years into the future; or, there could be a shift in the meaning of certain words in what I've just written such that its meaning changes. So long as this kind of possibility is admitted - however minimal this possibility is - one cannot say absolutely that meaning is present; it is always technically open-ended. Since we cannot directly perceive the infinite number of uses implied by the sentence's repeatability, the meaning is never fully "present" or "complete": it is deferred. (talk) 21:14, 17 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you to everyone who has worked on this article[edit]

Differance and the web of meaning are important and useful concepts and worth knowing, and Derrida hit on something of lots of real world usefulness here. And there's no way you'd ever understand it if you read Derrida's original festering midden of a chapter. I got about as far as the first sentence of the third paragraph before wanting to throw my computer against the wall. So thank you to the many Wikipedians over the years who've explained these concepts in terms that are actually understandable rather than wilfully obscurantist - David Gerard (talk) 15:40, 27 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ungrammatical sentence[edit]

"Questioned this myth of the presence of meaning in itself ("objective") and/or for itself ("subjective") Derrida will start a long deconstruction of all texts where conceptual oppositions are put to work in the actual construction of meaning and values based on the subordination of the movement of "différance"[10]" Frankly, Derridean mumbo-jumbo makes your head spin alright (it certainly does mine). The author of the above lines must have felt quite the same because his sentence is a little off here, isn't it? Would somebody mind to fix it? I dare not to, because I cannot fathom where he wanted to go with it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:46, 16 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The problem with this sentence is that it is unclear whether "based on the subordination of the movement of différance" applies to the word "where" or not. To re-express it:
"I will dig the garden choosing those holes that are not deep enough based on the shape of my shovel."
Does "based on the shape of my shovel" mean "the shape of my shovel affects my choice of hole" or does it mean "the shape of my shovel has something to do with the manner in which these holes are to be dug"?
Derrida will start a long deconstruction (of all texts where conceptual oppositions are put to work in the actual construction of meaning and values) based on the subordination of the movement of "différance"[10]"
Derrida will start a long deconstruction of all texts (where conceptual oppositions are put to work in the actual construction of meaning and values based on the subordination of the movement of "différance")[10]"
? There's quite a bit of hypocrisy in a critic of language and meaning not being able to construct a sentence.
Paul Murray (talk) 03:19, 5 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The fact that a Wikipedia editor has written an unclear sentence does permit any conclusions about Derrida's ability to do so.

gestures at[edit]

'In the essay "Différance" Derrida indicates that différance gestures at a number of heterogeneous features that govern the production of textual meaning.'

What does "gestures at" mean? Does something this obscure belong in this encyclopaedia?

Paul Murray (talk) 03:20, 5 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Derrida's neographism (rather than neologism, because "neologism" would propose a logos, a metaphysical category, and more simply, because when uttered in French, "différance" is indistinguishable from "difference"- it is thus a graphical modification solely, having nothing to do with a spoken "logos")

This is is nonsense. Not all words are names of metaphysical categories. 'Logos' in 'neologism' simply means 'word', not 'platonic ideal', and 'neologism' simply means 'new word'. (You can riff on the meaning of 'logos' if you like, even drag Jesus into it, but - as Humpty Dumpty pointed out - you have to pay them extra when you do that). 'Différance' is clearly a new word. It is as much a word as 'word' is.

'Neographism' would mean "a new way of writing an old word". It would mean that 'Différance' is merely a different spelling of 'Différence', which is not the case. If it were, Derrida would not have needed an essay, he could merely have deferred to a dictionary. Paul Murray (talk) 03:50, 5 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If Derrida has chosen to call this term a neographism rather than a neologism for various reasons, it is not the business of Wikipedia to argue with this choice, nor to dispute its legitimacy (unless via citation of existing scholarship). Moreover, do you not think that Derrida was already aware of your point? What he is trying to name is a kind of generative movement prior to all determination of identity - for that reason, what he is naming cannot be a word or concept, these unities being constituted only on the basis of differance. For sure, at the same time it is of course a word - it cannot avoid being one, insofar as Derrida must communicate it through language. Derrida fully expects you to experience this absurdity - this is what happens when you ask questions about the "before" of language and identity. (talk) 18:30, 1 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

---This misspelling highlights the fact that its written form is not heard, and serves to further subvert the traditional privileging of speech over writing (see arche-writing and logocentrism), as well as the distinction between the sensible and the intelligible. The difference articulated by the ⟨a⟩ in différance is not apparent to the senses via sound, "but neither can it belong to intelligibility, to the ideality which is not fortuitously associated with the objectivity of theorein or understanding." This is because the language of understanding is already caught up in sensible metaphors—for example, θεωρεῖν (theōrein) means "to see" in Ancient Greek.---
This is rubbish - sheer puffery written by a Derridia fan. The privileging of speech over writing? In what universe? Our laws are written, our texbooks are written, wikipedia itself is written. "Speech and Phenomena" itself is written.
First, as I read it, 'difference' and 'differance' are pronounced differently (you know, one has an 'e' sound and the other an 'a' sound), so it is not true to say that the two are not distinct to the sense of sound.
And I fail to see how the fact(?) that language is "caught up" in sensible metaphors is the reason why the difference articulated by différance cannot belong to intelligibility or the ideality associated with the objectivity of the greek "to see". We can't make any sense of this whatever before working out a) if, in fact, language being caught up in sensible metaphors actually is the reason why the difference cannot belong to intelligibility; b) if, in fact, the difference cannot belong to intelligibility; and c) what this difference actually is.
Is this all just some sort of joke?
I suspect it is. Some painter (Dali?) once said that the Americans never really understood that the purpose of most modern art is to amuse. Likewise 'différance'. It's just elbow-nudging, a joke played on people who don't get the joke.
My God. Don't these people have jobs? (talk) 02:20, 23 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No to mention that language's sensible metaphors undercuts the whole idea that language is nothing but references to other language. We have all seen a bank undercut and collapsed by moving water. (talk) 02:23, 23 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Whole article in need of re-writing[edit]

Anyone who has actually devoted any amount of time to studying Derrida will notice that virtually everything said in both the main article and the discussion page, positive and negative, is hopelessly inaccurate. The same old myths about deconstruction are repeated, as are the obvious objections to these myths. It's like the seventies all over again.

This article needs reworking from the ground up, preferably by someone who is qualified to do so. I disagree with the suggestion in another section that "someone who isn't a Derridean" should be the person to write the article. Why would you not want a specialist to write the article? The obvious reason is that the author of this suggestion thinks that "Derrideans" are especially incapable of adapting themselves to the standards of impartiality required by Wikipedia. I struggle to imagine the author of this suggestion thinking such a measure would be necessary for an article on particle physics, or on Christianity.

A better approach would be to try and explain the context in which the word arises, the philosophical function it serves for Derrida's project, and its relation to certain other notions in the history of philosophy, such as Being, eidos, and dialectic. As it stands, it sounds like a group of people read an "Intro to Deconstruction" textbook from 1979 and went wild. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:09, 11 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The same old myths about deconstruction are repeated, as are the obvious objections to these myths. It's like the seventies all over again.
Surprising that philosophers of language should be so poor at communicating. (talk) 02:24, 23 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]