The Impossible Diagram of History

The impossible diagram of history: ‘History’ in Derrida’s Of Grammatology

Derrida Today, Volume 8 Issue 2, Page 193-214 (Oct 2015).

https://doi.org/10.3366/drt.2015.0110

Abstract

This article presents Derrida as a philosopher of history by reinterpreting his De la Grammatologie. In particular, it provides a schematic reconstruction of Part II of that book from the perspective of the problem of history. My account extends work on historicity in Derrida by privileging the themes of ‘history’ and ‘diagram’ in the Rousseau part. I thereby establish a Derridean concept of history which aims at accounting for the continuities and discontinuities of the past. This is in contrast to some criticism that Derrida leaves behind, or inadequately accounts for history. Derrida describes a necessarily contorted condition of relating any historical event or development to itself or to another. This historicity informs other well-known aspects of Derrida’s work, like the ‘quasi-transcendental’ terms he developed. I conclude that ‘history’ is a critical element in any understanding of deconstruction, and that deconstruction entails new kinds of history, but that some axioms of current historical thought require reformation.

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