Jacques Derrida

Derrida’s Metaphysic

French intellectual Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) was one of the most important contributors to the post-modern philosophical movement. He was also one of the most notoriously difficult philosophers to understand. In this first episode of a three-part series, Dr. Christopher Watkin helps us understand Derrida’s metaphysic (theory of reality). Dr. Watkin is senior lecturer in French Studies at Monash University, Australia. Dr. Watkin received his MPhil and PhD from Cambridge. He has written multiple books on philosophy, including the Derrida installment of the Great Thinkers series, forthcoming with P&R Publishing.


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5 Responses

  1. Fascinating and much appreciated. I would love to hear thoughts on Derrida’s hermeneutics. Most conversations I’ve had concerning Derrida and Christiany revolve more around the nature of meaning and interaction with texts rather than metaphysics (I’m sure this is a false distinction). Since we are a people under the authority of a sacred text, how does Derrida help or harm the Christian in approaching revelation?

  2. Hi David! It’s a good question. I touch on hermeneutics and revelation briefly in the third podcast and in more depth in the book. Calvin’s idea of accommodation is key in my estimation, because (to speak somewhat crudely) it makes the adequate communication of truth God’s problem. Derrida, for his part, is cautious of any determinate content to revelation because it would domesticate God and mean that his advent would no longer be a radical surprise. He resists the reduction of the Other to our horizon of expectation (at which point, for him, it wouldn’t really be other any more).

    1. can’t imagine that Derrida had much use for revelation or God apart from rhetorical purposes tho Jack Caputo has used his work as inspiration for a “weak” theology that sounds much like what you are gesturing towards here.

  3. This whole series was great, but I kept wanting it to go a little further. How radical was Derrida with all this? The metaphysics conversation never explicitly got to metaphysics as far as I could tell. It’s one thing to say that a word or “red and white stripes” have no meaning in and of themselves, and that there is no outside the text when it comes to cultural expression. But does Derrida extend this to everything in reality? Is ‘reality’ itself a text in which all parts only have meaning or existence dependent on context? This seems similar to Kant’s insistence that we can never know the thing in itself because we filter reality through a prioris, but does Derrida go further and insist there is no thing in itself anywhere at all? What, to Derrida, is the nature of reality?

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