Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Insanity of Deconstructionism

I first heard about "deconstructionism" as a philosophy in the 1990s while reading a piece from the then very young editor of National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg. When I went to school, words still had meaning, and it was our job as budding literary critics (or so our professor liked to style us) to dig out those meanings, both the spoken and the unspoken. My first thought was to marvel on the fact that a "philosopher" had actually written that words have no meaning! Insane!  What an interesting way to say nothing and be thought a genius.

Apparently, the Tuscon shooter, Jared Loughner, was in thrall to this philosophy, and the philosopher Derrida. Congresswoman Gifford's response to a question posed by Loughner about the meaning of words was viewed by Loughner as dismissing him. Perhaps it was, but how Loughner would have determined that if he took the philosophy seriously, I really don't know. In any case, a piece in the American Thinker Monday caught my attention. It is entitled Death by Deconstruction by Larry Anderson. I will quote a few graphs to give you a taste for the article:

Such avenues of "thought" (if this bilge can be called thinking -- imagine the gall it takes to write: "assuming writing exits") have a dark side. According to Derrida writing is a sign that signifies "difference" or a "trace." (He became famous for his supposedly subtle uses of the terms "diffĂ©rance" and "trace.") This led Derrida to conclude, "writing is parricide"[v] because writing "opens up the series of oppositions dominated by ‘inside/outside'" (the powerful versus the powerless).[vi]
...the fact that universal thought , in all its domains...should be receiving a formidable impulse from an anxiety about a strangely concerted development.... Whatever the poverty of our knowledge in this respect, it is certain that the question of the sign is itself more or less, or in any event something other than, a sign of the times. To dream of reducing it to a sign of the times is to dream of violence.[vii]
Derrida's philosophy, seen as a sign of the times, is a dream of violence. As he states in one of his most influential works, De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology published in 1967): "...writing is not a sign of a sign, except if one says it of all signs, which would be more profoundly true." A sign of all signs is surely a sign of the times. Thus, Derrida calls, at least implicitly, for his readers to fulfill a "dream of violence." Elsewhere he urges his readers to "go there where you cannot go, to the impossible, it is indeed the only way of coming or going."

So, did Derrida drive Loughner insane? No. I am not a psychologist, but I suspect Jared Loughner was already insane. But these ideas are being spewed to our children as the truth. Words do have meaning. They are a tool used to express ideas and concepts across space and time. The power of words is that they can shape our understanding of the world around us. It is possible to understand our place in the world as moral free agents, able to choose at any moment either good or evil, or to understand ourselves as pawns of powerful forces over which we have no control. The mind can not distinguish the truth of either proposition, only reality can. I believe God created us to be moral free agents, with no excuses. Socialists understand the individual to be pawns, subjects of the State, and unable to do anything without the help of the collective. The Constitution, however, paints a very different picture. It sees the individual as the sovereign, able to make decisions and choose for himself. Personally, I choose the Constitution.

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