Saturday, October 09, 2004

R.I.P., Jacques

Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 - October 9, 2004)

Jacques Derrida, one of France's most famous philosophers, has died at the age of 74, it has been announced.

Derrida died in a Paris hospital on Friday night, news agency AFP reported. He suffered from pancreatic cancer.

The Algerian-born philosopher is best known for his "deconstruction theory" - unpicking the way text is put together in order to reveal its hidden meanings. [ed. BAH! You can always count on the British press to write about that which they don't understand.]

Fellow academics have charged that Derrida's writings "deny distinction between reality and fiction". [ed. Many 'fellow academics' who made such a charge, I might point out, never actually read much of Derrida, save for the scare quotes in various monographs about his work.]

Derrida is one of the most influential philosophers of the late 20th Century.

In his long career, he taught at the Sorbonne and at several American universities.

[. . .]

Jacques Derrida also campaigned for the rights of immigrants in France, against apartheid in South Africa, and in support of dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia.

He was so influential that lat year a film was made about his life - a biographical documentary.

At one point, wandering through Derrida's library, one of the filmmakers asks him: "Have you read all the books in here?"

"No," he replies impishly, "only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully".

This is quite sad. According to those I know who knew him pretty well, Derrida was wonderfully kind and generous. Disagree with him all you will -- and believe me, I do -- but few have ever faulted the grace with which he lived and worked. He will be remembered and honored ... and not just in the cottage industry of academic and artistic tributes that will inevitably follow in the next year or so.

Rest in peace, Jacques. We hardly knew ya ... and even those that did, rarely understood ya ... but for those of us who 'got it', we'll never be the same. For a fabulous series of links to his writings online, as well as a couple of pieces about him (J. Caputo's is quite nice, even if I disagree with it), see wood s lot.

UPDATE: I've added several links since I first posted this.