Studying the philosopher Jacques Derrida is never for the squeamish of heart. When you read his writings, you have to wonder why he can’t seem to formulate his ideas in a more straight-forward language. Derrida almost always writes in the idiom of “doublespeak.” What exactly is “doublespeak,” you might ask? Doublespeak is language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning—it is the language of ambiguity; it is also the language of punsters.
Well, one of my friends thought that Derrida sometimes wrote his ideas while he was under the influence of drugs. But like his friend Emanuel Levinas, both of their philosophical writing styles invite the reader to think more deeply into what they are attempting to say. Philosophers, since the time of the Greek mystic Heraclitus, love speaking in the language of enigma. Kant and Spinoza are not much different. Sometimes I have to take an Excedrin tablet or two whenever attempting to plow through their obtuse ideas.
Derrida’s Spatial Philosophy
Derrida argues that all Western thought is based upon the idea of a center, or an origin, a Truth, and Ideal Form, a Fixed Point, an Immovable Mover or Essence, a God, a Presence, all of which are capitalized. The problem with centers, is that they all tend to exclude, repress and marginalize anything that is Other. Thus, in male-oriented societies, man is central, while the woman is the marginalized “Other”; she is repressed, ignored and pushed to the margins. Deconstruction is a tactic which the center is “decentered” which enables the marginalized to become central thus overthrowing (at least temporarily) the hierarchy. Thus there is no truth, only interpretation — and all interpretations, Derrida asserts, are socially constructed.
I often thought about Derrida’s idiosyncratic idea whenever I study the Talmud, a work that this full of thousands of rabbinic discussions; it is a pity this great work of Jewish literature almost never included rabbinic dialogues with women within the margins of the text. Sometimes the boundaries of the Talmudic text almost appear like a fence or hedge. Continue reading “Deconstructing a Biblical Text through Midrash–A Derridean Approach”