Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Evils of "Logocentrism"
It is doubtful that I will summon up the energy and find the time to plough through Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology , so I am resorting to the next best thing by reading Arthur Bradley's Derrida's Of Grammatology (2008). At least, Bradley's vademecum to Derrida may be of some help in finding out what Derrida means by "logocentrism." Derrida called it the most "original and powerful ethnocentrism" because it (in Bradley's words) " violently privileges and imposes the values of western culture over all others. " Briefly, logocentrism is the primal error of privileging speech over writing, of seeing writing as derivative of and inferior to speech. In Bradley's explication, "writing describes the originary condition of language itself."
It would be interesting to know what Derrida makes of the fact that neither Socrates nor Jesus wrote. True, Jesus did write one word in the sand, but that was it. He was literate, since he read the Torah. Certainly, Socrates was literate and learned. Both, though, would seem to be the primal champions of logocentrism. It is also a fact that history's most successful anti-Semite was best known as a maker of speeches, albeit that he did produce one long book.
There is the Semitic tradition which exalts the study of the Torah, which (at least among the southernmost Semites) asserts that the Koran as a book existed in heaven from the very creation. Then, there is the little book with the seals in " Revelation," the apocalyptic finale to the New Testament which many scholars believe was originally a Jewish work which was revised to make Christians its heroes.
What does Derrida do with Socrates and Jesus? Does he damn them as logocentrists? It would seem that he probably does so, since all of western philosophy from Plato down to Heidegger is in error, according to Derrida.
Leftists on campus love to play with these terms. It helps one understand where they get their persistent theme that western culture must be deconstructed to do away with all ethnocentrism, Derrida being the great deconstructionist.