Derrida's reasoning : a critical assessment.
In a series of early essays, Derrida examines theories of language
in the philosophical tradition. He finds a persistent privileging
of speech at the expense of writing, which he attributes to the
conception of meaning as presence, as an ideal object present to
inner perception, and of the sign as a transparent unity of
signifier and signified.
I trace the notion of "presence" to Heidegger's 'destruction of
the history of ontology'. Heidegger criticizes the tradition for
privileging perception as the only means of access to being. I
accept Heidegger's criticisms of the tradition, but offer an
argument to show that he is wrong to deny the priority of
Derrida denies three theses in traditional theories of language:
(i) Language has a relation to the world (the reference relation).
(ii) The intermediaries in this relation are meanings, which are
ideal objects present to inner perception.
(iii) Complex sentences derive their relation to the world from
By a close analysis of Derrida's arguments, I show that Derrida is
correct to reject (ii), but that once that is done, (i) and (iii)
can be retained.