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4.0 out of 5 stars The City of Derrida and toy bows and arrows but a good read.
This a helpful little skirmish with a densely intractable subject. Strathern discusses the general drift of deconstruction without giving any precise definitions or getting involved in any kind of D-Day or significant invasion of territory. This is a pity as his train of thought is lucid and clear and would make him ideally suited to rendering this super-human philosopher...
Published 20 months ago by Destiny Clemens

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't really explain what Derrida was trying to do
I read three Philosophy in an Hour books - Derrida, Heidegger and Foucault. I'm reviewing each one separately but I have similar remarks about each of them which I have written in my review of the Heidegger: Philosophy in an Hour book.

Paul Strathern seems to really not like Derrida - he views him as a muddled thinker who tried to show everything was relative...
Published 23 months ago by J. Mann


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't really explain what Derrida was trying to do, 6 Oct 2012
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J. Mann - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Derrida: Philosophy in an Hour (Kindle Edition)
I read three Philosophy in an Hour books - Derrida, Heidegger and Foucault. I'm reviewing each one separately but I have similar remarks about each of them which I have written in my review of the Heidegger: Philosophy in an Hour book.

Paul Strathern seems to really not like Derrida - he views him as a muddled thinker who tried to show everything was relative without realising that statement itself is relative and that there is no such thing as truth without realising that statement must itself make some sort of truth claim.

Really if you listen to Strathern you would be surprised to discover Derrida was able to dress himself, let alone engage with serious philosophy.

It is one thing to not agree with a philosopher you are writing about - but at least spend some time explaining what might be of value in Derrida before laying into him, instead of making the book a series of short explanations followed by immediate put-downs. The reader isn't really given a chance to consider whether Derrida might be saying something of value before we learn of yet another obvious howler he has committed.

In fact - if I could briefly try to say what I find engaging about Derrida - he is incredibly engaged in the notion of truth, far from denying there is such a thing as truth he looks in detail at how truth is produced and what else is necessary to be in place before something can be said to be true.

Derrida provides close readings of a series of philosophical texts, paying attention to detail and able to draw out all sorts of hidden assumptions that perhaps even the author was not aware of. He is therefore perfectly entitled to complain if a critic has not spent the same care and attention in listening to what he is saying, and reading him carefully also.

Think of any attempt you might have made to explain something to someone. There are all sort of "devices" you have to use to communicate the concept in question - you will soon realise that there is a real art in trying to arrange arguments and explanations in the right order and using the right language.

Indeed any practical engagement in such an exercise will lead you to realise there are all sorts of issues as to what assumptions can be made with respect to the audience you are addressing, how much can be taken for granted, what might be accepted as "evidence", what might be considered obvious and what might be unbelievable.

Derrida uses the notion of to "defer" to explain the essential difficulties we find in saying the truth. How can we fully explain something? There is never the time to explain everything, to justify all our assumptions - we must therefore "defer" to another time any full explanation - yet that time of full explanation never happens. Similarly in the time available we cannot say everything - communication is not like downloading a file into someone's memory - we have to choose what is said, we have to be selective.

Derrida then takes seriously how we can speak of truth when we live in a world overflowing with facts - where at any time no matter how exhaustive our efforts we can only be in reception of a small number of the facts available. And how can we speak the truth in such limited time?

This leads us back to the true nature of philosophy - the love of wisdom - perhaps we can, if not be certain then at least be wise? And it has to be said that in most of the positions Derrida has taken - support for Nelson Mandela, opposition to the nuclear arms race, support for for dissent in totalitarian countries and so on - Derrida has got it right. It might be objected that such moral positions are no-brainers, but there are enough intellectuals around who have got these things wrong to remind us that when you question everything, getting some of the basics right isn't as easy as it looks.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The City of Derrida and toy bows and arrows but a good read., 17 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Derrida: Philosophy in an Hour (Kindle Edition)
This a helpful little skirmish with a densely intractable subject. Strathern discusses the general drift of deconstruction without giving any precise definitions or getting involved in any kind of D-Day or significant invasion of territory. This is a pity as his train of thought is lucid and clear and would make him ideally suited to rendering this super-human philosopher intelligible to a general public. Still, I must congratulate and thank him for a tiny but readable foray into the most outlying suburbs of cosmopolis Derrida.
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