The Concept of Difference: Derrida’s Discourse on the Natural

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 October 2016

The Concept of Difference: Derrida’s Discourse on the Natural

‘Original purity’ has had been the theme of philosophical thinking for almost 2000 years. Original purity refers to the notion which states that the genesis of the structure is simple, pure, and absolute (Royle, 2000). In short, the foundations of objective reality – the ‘truths’ – are generally derived subjects. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hegel, and other Western philosophers believed that the structure is measured by the ‘depth’ of experience – the depth of experience being influenced by its level of derivation from the origin.

In Descartes terminology, this is called ‘construction of knowledge. ’ Construction of knowledge is based on two overarching assumptions. First, it assumes that knowledge is derived from experience – through the interaction of structures, entities, and natural truths. Second, the level of knowledge is measured by its proximity to the ‘origin. ’ Knowledge therefore is experiential and structured (Foucault, 2006). For Derrida, every structural phenomenon or experience has a history, and that the structure cannot be understood without due reference to its genesis.

However, according to Derrida, this origin “cannot be a simple potential purity or a point of textuality” rather a complex entity in which multiple consequences are possible. For Derrida, the origin of complex forms and structures must be complex in itself. Here, Derrida laid the basic tenets of deconstruction (Derrida, 2002). Deconstruction views totality as something indiscrete, containing irreconcilable differences, and contradictory meanings. Derrida argued that the totality is compounded by different interpretations – interpretations which are generally irreducible.

Therefore, the so-called ‘origin’ is not absolute but rather complex – only in this way can structures (derivations) contain multiple meanings and consequences (Derrida, 1978: 194). Here, Derrida assumed that the fundamental basis of truth is its ‘natural meaning’ – meaning which is not limited by the ‘demagoguery of the exterior. ’ The Concept of Differance Related to Derrida’s theory on structure and origin is the so-called ‘concept of differance. ’ According to him, the concept of difference is the general process of producing difference and deferral.

In a lecture addressed to the Societe Francaise de la Philosophie on January 27, 1968, Derrida said: On the other hand, it indicates difference as distinction, inequality, or discernability; on the other, it expresses the interposition of delay, the interval of spacing and temporalizing that puts off until later what is presently denied, the possible that is presently impossible. Sometimes the different and sometimes the deferred correspond to the verb “to differ. ” This correlation, however, is not simply one between act and object, cause and effect, or primordial and derived (Trifonas, 2002: 226-227).

Here, Derrida constructs the word ‘difference’ – a word, non word which cannot be narrowed-down or fixed in the locality or rubric of both of its meanings. The semantic or perceptual meaning of the word expresses both meanings of differentiation as spatial-temporality and as movement – the middle between passivity and activity. In short, the efficacy of deconstruction is dependent on the use of difference. Because difference is the theoretical basis of deconstruction, then it is only plausible that the basic operation of philosophy is always an irreducible aspect of non-presence in operation.

Derrida argued: What defers presence … is the very basis on which presence is announced or desired in what represents it, its sign, its trace … for what is important to language is the creation of signs … the possibility of which are deducted based on its level of impossible, its relation to the complex origin, and the remuneration of all which is both abstract and non-abstract (Derrida, 2002: 6). In short, the created entity or sign must refer to something beyond itself that is its meaning.

This is because the sign is never fully present in itself but a general deferral to something else – to something different. The structural relationship between the signified and the signifier is created through the process of differentiation. The process of differentiation is the general movement of the difference, as that which produces different things and its relations. Moral Evaluation and Language The evaluative power cannot be restricted to the ‘minimal’ norms of the society or to the assumed transcendental philosophies. For Derrida, the moral content of signs is found in the natural itself.

The exterior form has no relation to the inner structure. The basis for evaluation cannot be therefore plausible if only the rubric of the exterior is examined. It is necessary to begin with the origin – the point of complexity. Only in this way can a consequence be termed as ‘moral’, ‘immoral’, or ‘amoral. ’ For Derrida, speech is the primary mode of language and writing as an inferior derivative of speech (Derrida, 1978). Historically, speech is equated with logos, meaning thought, and associated with the presence of the speaker to the receiving audience.

Language as self efficacy is composed of signifiers – marks and sounds – which create images to distinguish the object from the subject. For Derrida, then, the association of speech with its essential meaning unconsciously results to the loss of reference to the signifier and language itself. Hence, in the process of image creation or interpretation, the signifier is lost in the predicament of consciousness – that is, the essentiality of language itself becomes lost in the myriad of signs and marks.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 16 October 2016

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