Destructio : Heidegger, Derrida and the history of thought

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This thesis seeks to raise certain problems involved in Heidegger’s phenomenological Destruktion of traditional ontology and what has come to be known, despite Derrida’s reservations, as déconstruction. The reading of the encounter between Heidegger and Derrida presented here is undertaken primarily in order to clarify the general relation to philosophical conceptuality. For the thesis, these “destructions” represent an essential opening onto the circularity of that conceptuality: for example, its apparent use of a time determination (presence) in order to interpret the meaning of Being, a meaning which is in turn used to describe the operation of temporality, its Being or non-Being. It is not a matter of simply exiting this circle: because it is necessary to thought itself; because all that escapes from it is, precisely, nothing (not a thing in the world); lastly, because the forgetting which structures this conceptuality also gives to it its structural self-evidence. For these reasons, the thesis as a whole undertakes an analysis of certain necessary difficulties in the formulation of these operations—their non-conceptuality or non-positivity. The first chapter of the thesis concerns the relation between the analytic of Dasein and the explicit thematic of Destruktion in Sein und Zeit, where we argue that the position of Heidegger’s Destruktion must be read in relation to the methodological prerogative of the entire work (its start in self-evidence or everydayness). The second chapter concerns the character of the critical questions Derrida poses to Heidegger’s work. The thesis argues that the reading of Derrida’s relation to Heidegger must start from the realisation that it is posed expressly as a déconstructive problematic. What is at issue for Derrida is not Heidegger’s continuity with metaphysics but his reliance on only a single strategy of déconstruction: the attempt to repeat ontology. For Derrida, Heidegger never adequately thematises the relation between this repetition and the discourses which it in fact repeats. The remainder of the thesis responds to the implications of these first two chapters. In attempting to account for the lack of thematisation Derrida describes, the thesis gives an original reading of “repetition” in Sein und Zeit and of a certain circularity defined by the configuration of various concepts in the analytic (in/authenticity, wholeness, possibility, Ständigkeit, Entschlossenheit, etc.). While Heidegger seeks to systematically treat this circularity in the analyses of temporality in Sein und Zeit, we argue that ultimately this covers over an essential indeterminacy in the form of the analytic. In the last chapter, the thesis shows the continuity of Derrida’s questions regarding Heidegger with the central preoccupations of his early work. After examining the necessity of the division Derrida perceives in the operations of déconstruction, we seek to trace the effects of a certain minimal historical reference (trace, dé-construction, différance) in Derrida’s early work, and the problems it creates in Derrida’s formulation of phonocentrism and archi-writing.
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