Rodney Dangerfield died this week…and because he gets no respect, I didn’t really blog about it, because what can you say about Rodney? You love him or you hated him. I loved him, thought he was the epitome of that kitschy east-coast Catskills-comedian…a fast dying breed. And one comedian closer to extinct now. I think Joan Rivers may be the only one left standing at this point…and I’m not completely certain she’s human…or alive.
And today I found out another person I’ve enjoyed, who also got very little respect (outside of certain academic circles), Jacques Derrida, a charismatic philosopher who founded the school known as deconstructionism, has died. Deconstructionists like Derrida explored the means of liberating the written word from the structures of language, opening limitless textual interpretations. Derrida focused his work on showing that language has multiple layers and thus multiple meanings or interpretations, challenging the notion that speech is a direct form of communication or even that the author of a text is the author of its meaning.
The philosophy of the deconstructionists had a big impact on my direction in grad school, and exposure to it is probably what pointed me towards the study of semantic linguistics. I’m not sure I ever *believed* in the entire deconstructionist package of theories, so much as I considered it a brilliant path of thought, and one that forced potential thinkers to reevaluate information in a new method. He was a great thinker, and I believe history will equate him with Rousseau and Voltaire in the roll call of astounding French philosophers.
Edit: Wanted to add a link to this; Dear Derrida.