Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences: Assessment

‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ (Derrida, 1978: 278 –293) may possibly be study as the document of an event, although Derrida basically commences the essay with a reservation with regards to the word “event”, as it entails a which means “which it is precisely the function of structural – or structuralist – thought to decrease or suspect” (278). This, I infer, refers to the emphasis within structuralist discourse on the synchronous analysis of systems and relations within them, as opposed to a diachronic schemata occupied with uncovering genetic and teleological content in the transformations of history.

The event which the essay documents is that of a definitive epistemological break with structuralist thought, of the ushering in of post-structuralism as a movement critically engaging with structuralism, but also conventional humanism and empiricism – here it becomes the “structurality of structure” (278) itself which starts to be thought. Instantly on the other hand, Derrida notes that he is not presuming to place himself ‘outside’ of the critical circle or totality in order to so criticise. Whilst the function of the centre of the structure is identified as that which reduces the possibility of thinking this structurality of structure, even although “it has always been at work” (278), that is, it has normally been an financial and economising issue inside Western philosophy limiting the play of the structure – exactly where I comprehend play to be linked with “uneconomic” deconstructive notions such as supplementarity, the trace, and differance, Derrida notes that “even right now the notion of a structure lacking any center [sic] represents the unthinkable itself” (279).

This seems to present a conundrum. For though the centre closes off play, it apparently can not be completed with out, at least, it can not be simply discarded without having it re-emerging someplace else inside the totality. The conundrum is in fact a paradox and a coherent contradiction of classical thought, which echoes the Freudian theory of neurotic symptoms exactly where a symbol at when expresses the wish to fulfil and suppress a provided impulse (339). Hence, “the contradiction expresses the force of a desire” (279). The centre is, according to Derrida, each inside and without the totality – it is an elsewhere (Derrida’s italics) of the totality. It is also a tough and paradoxical concept to grasp.

The notion of a full presence informs metaphysical discourses in movements aiming to uncover origins or to decode, prophesy even, the aims of philosophical and metaphysical…

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