Voice and silence: aspects of Derrida's critique of phonocentrism

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This thesis examines aspects of the critique, undertaken by Jacques Derrida, of phonocentrism in western thought. Its initial focus is Derrida's early work on the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Both thinkers, Derrida argues, demonstrate their commitment to metaphysics through their reliance on a notion of (silent) voice intimately aligned to intellection. In Derrida's reading, Saussure and Husserl reduce to varying degrees sounded voice and writing, considering them irreducibly exterior to the unity of inner voice and thought. The thesis next argues vis-à-vis this critique that Derrida himself reduces voice to silence, and mobilises, as a key facet of his program, a trope of silent inscription. Guided by a range of critiques of Derrida, the thesis asserts that the early Derrida remains, in this aspect of his work, intra-metaphysical. Against Derrida, the thesis posits a sonorous voice incommensurable with the silent voice which is both the object and outcome of Derrida's polemic against phonocentrism. The thesis also notes the complicity of metaphors of vision with the phonocentric bent in Western thought. In closing, the thesis speculatively asserts, again by adducing a number of critiques of Derridean thought, that Derrida (1) arguably relies for his anti-phonocentric critique on the ocularcentrism which he contends is concomitant with phonocentrism in western thought and (2) aporetically recognises the inadequacy of the trope of silence as a response to the aggrandisement of the phonè in metaphysics.
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