Adventure, schema, supplement: Jacques Derrida and the philosophy of history
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 20:13 by Andrew Dunstall
This thesis studies 'history' in Derrida's Of Grammatology, uncovering a new and productive level of history that impacts historical disciplines (historiography). This is a complex task for two reasons; first on account of the proliferating connotations of 'history'; second, because contemporary historiography and philosophy have largely talked past each other. Historians sometimes create confusion, by ignoring a crucial delineation of levels which deconstruction highlights; alternately, history has frequently been abandoned by philosophers as uninteresting. The first part reconstructs the conceptual network surrounding 'history' in Of Grammatology. Following phenomenological emphasis, Derrida does not address the constituted historical disciplines, but the very historicity that every historical task must presuppose. Derrida seeks to liberate history from concepts that would freeze its very happening. In his reading of Rousseau in particular, Derrida illustrates the metaphysical enchaining of 'history', yet loosening it in that very redescription. I show how this issues in a productive if complex 'diagram', which is implicitly related to multiple concerns of contemporary historiography, as well as occupying a central role within Derrida's own work. In the second part, then, I reconsider some recent historiographical debates from the perspective of this 'diagram'. This perspective forces historiography to confront its own historicity as much as that of its objects - something historians in recent years have been keen to try and do. The 'diagram' is explicated with questions of narrative, meaning, and gender. Through this dialogue, Derrida's emphasis on history is recovered, and historiography is reinvigorated by a renewed philosophical acuity. In the course of this explication and dialogue, Derrida's work appears far different from many of the received representations of a thinker concerned with signs and texts. Derrida is revealed as a thinker of concrete historical situations. His philosophy appears very classical, while at the same time always seeking out dialogue between philosophy and other disciplines.