Alex Peek blog

List of posts    Blog archive    About


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Jacques Derrida and interpretation


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Auto-epreuve

Photo license: CC BY 4.0


Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was an Algerian-French philosopher best known for his contributions to interpretation and the philosophy of literature. Literary critic Norman Holland said,


"Saussure's neat pairings of signifier and signified came from a finite system of distinctive features. By contrast, Derrida's signifier and signifed go on and on in endless differencing or differing or deferring (all terms involved in Derrida's own word, differance)." (The Critical I NY, 1992)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Derrida.


Interpretation of text


"Therefore we will not listen to the source itself in order to learn what it is or what it means, but rather to the turns of speech, the allegories, figures, metaphors, as you will, into which the source has deviated, in order to lose it or rediscover it - which always amounts to the same." (


"A text remains, however, harbored int he inaccessibility of a secret; it is simply that they can never be booked, in the present, into anything that could rigorously be called a perception." (Dissemination, 1972)


" put it playfully and with a certain immodesty, one has not yet begun to read me... even though there are, to be sure, many very good readers." (Learning to Live Finally: The Last Interview, 2007)


"There is no outside-text." (


Words and signification


"...the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences. The absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the interplay of signification ad infinitum." (Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences, 1966)


"The entire history of the concept of structure, before the rupture of which we are speaking, must be thought of a series of substitutions of center for center." (Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences, 1966)




"Differance is the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other." (Positions, 1982)


"The 'a' of differance also recalls that spacing is temporization, the detour and postponement by means of which intuition, perception, consummation - a word, the relationship to the present, the reference to a present reality, to a being - are always deffered." (Positions, 1982)




"I was wondering myself if I know where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going." (Quoted in The Structuralist Controversy by Richard Macksey and Eugene Donato, 2007)


"So none of this looks like a blossoming or a completeness, but rather like impromptus, fits and starts that, precisely because of their incompleteness and non-coincidence... induced me to continue." (A Taste for the Secret, 1997)