chapter  2
21 Pages

Derrida on language and meaning

Derrida’s most important philosophical infl uences were without doubt the works of Husserl and Heidegger. In a way, it is in this context that Derrida’s thinking becomes understandable, but it also expands in other directions that take distance from these classics. He claims that he learnt from Husserl a methodological prudence and reserve and a rigorous technique (Derrida 1984: 109). The phenomenological reduction that Husserl developed, the epoché, is central to Derrida’s philosophy. It is a way of interpreting in which the interpreter’s own relation to their surroundings and to what they are interpreting is acknowledged. Derrida uses this method when he reads texts, in this way unveiling some hidden meanings and structures. But Derrida also develops the method further and in doing so applies it to Husserl’s own texts as well. The phenomenological reduction in Derrida’s hands is directed towards the phenomenological tradition itself, in which he functions as a critic but also takes part and continues the tradition. Derrida’s deconstruction is thus not mere criticism in which Husserl would be proved to be wrong, but rather, a case of Derrida developing Husserl’s method further by also showing its weaker points. The problems and contradictions that Derrida is able to show in Husserl’s phenomenological reduction do not derive from the fact that Husserl simply missed something: they show in a signifi cant way how it is generally impossible to reach a method of interpretation that would be infallible (see Kaarto 2008: 11-13).