Derrida and Plato

"Derrida and Plato." Lecture delivered at NYU, in a series "Derrida and his Non-Contemporaries," October 19, 2000. In The Archaeology of the Soul, 2012.


The French for nothing rien comes from the Latin for thing rem; Derrida suggests that in thought the reverse is true. This is one of the very large claims Derrida makes, but the evidence he compiles for them is fragmentary, elusive, and anticipatory. He started out at least with something apocalyptical, the utter collapse of Western philosophy and its replacement by something oriental, whose emblem was the Chinese ideograph, for the ideograph somehow escapes from logocentrism and, whatever else it carried within itself, it certainly was not philosophy. Derrida shares this apocalyptic view with Heidegger but the place where this new revelation would appear was more hidden in the case of Heidegger. Derrida stands in a zig-zag line that stretches from Hegel thought Nietzsche and Husserl to Heidegger, all of whom supply something to his own project. Heidegger’s Destruktion, Husserls’s notion of sedimentation, Nietzsche’s question about the possibility of philosophy, and Hegel’s comprehensive systemization of history were the elements that allow Derrida to be rather eclectic and appeal to one notion or another as he toys with whatever victim comes within range and on which he chooses to pounce. … There are, however, no frontal assaults in Derrida; everything is oblique, as if the castle were impregnable and everything up front unassailable, and only the back door had been left open.