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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Philosophy for Theologians aims to look critically at the problems of philosophy by considering everything in light of God's revelation. The program not only wants to address philosophical questions but also to equip you with a way to think about these questions. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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4 years ago

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?

Chris Watkin

4 years ago

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).


4 years ago

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.


4 years ago

Now you’re cooking with gas! Good to see Reformed Forum running on all cylinders again.


4 years ago

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?


2 years ago

“An analysis which is not merely a theoretical analysis, but at the same time another writing of the question of Being or meaning: deconstruction is also a manner or writing and putting forward another text. It is not a “tabula rasa”, which is why deconstruction is also distinct from doubt or from critique. Critique always operates in view of the decision after or by means of a judgment. The authority of judgment or of the critical evaluation is not the final authority for deconstruction. Deconstruction is also a deconstruction of critique. Which does not mean that all critique or all criticism is devalued, but that one is trying to think what the critical instances signifies in the history of authority. Deconstruction is not a critique. Another German word of which deconstruction is a kind of transposition is “Abbau,” which is found in Heidegger, and also found in Freud.” (Derrida)

mark alan forshee



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