Deconstructing Difference?

In After the Death of God, John D. Caputo writes that:

“Were a democracy to come–and it cannot came, that would not be possible for it to actually come–it would not be a place in which there is pure harmony or perfect “peace.” It would be a place in which there would be endless and irreconcilable differences, a profusion of differences that would be adjudicated without killing one another. “

John D. Caputo

Though an intriguing and compelling presentation of political messianism, this post will not be about democracy, nor about politics. Instead, I am here interested in the relationship between the different and the same. Caputo’s thought, and really deconstruction in general (if not all thought that takes Levinas’s philosophy of alterity as one of its founding intuitions) resists totalization, looks forward to the incoming of the other, seeks to break with the ontology of presence: simply, deconstruction is a philosophy of difference (or, perhaps better, différance). The Same is a questionable enemy, a source of oppression, violence waiting to happen. The same exludes the different, or worse, absorbs the different, destroying its alterity in a burst of assimilating power. But, it must be asked, to what extent, does this “binarity” (to use one of Caputo’s terms), re-inscribe deconstruction within the very paradigm it is trying to escape? For, deconstruction places itself in opposition to simple binary schemas of this or that, being and nothing, male and female, writing and speaking, etc, etc… . Consistency, it seems, would require that this same resistance be brought to bear on the same and the different. In Deconstruction in a Nutshell, Caputo writes:

“When presented with a neat distinction or opposition of this sort … [Derrida/deconstruction] will look around–in the text itself–for some third thing which the distinction omits, some untruth, or barely true remnant, which falls outside the famous distinction, which the truth of either separately or both together fails to capture, which is neither and both of the two.”

Jacques Derrida

It must be asked, then, is the opposition between the same and the different too “neat”? How is the eternal struggle of the same and the different not precisely the sort of meta-narrative that deconstruction seeks to expose the limits of? For, as Caputo vigorously argues, every binarity can be clearly identified by its hierarchical structure, because ever binary inevitably develops into an us/them, good/bad, pure/impure, that is to say, every seemingly descriptive schema, hides an implicit normative schema. Yet, we see, in the elevation of absolute difference over the “violent” totality of the same, exactly such a hierarchy.

Should we, then, “look around–in the text itself–for some third thing which the distinction omits”?

Should deconstruction itself be deconstructed?



About jleavittpearl

Philosopher and Theologian out of Pittsburgh PA.

Posted on August 4, 2013, in Thoughts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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