Jacques Derrida found himself in a similar situation to that of Spinoza, i.e. one of exile, albeit that Derrida’s exile was internal to Vichy Government controlled France and Algeria in World War 2. Derrida found himself exiled from a former position of some privilege as an educated French speaker in the closest of France’s colonies.
Derrida’s response to exile bears comparison with Spinoza’s, in that both sought to overcome borders by removing controlling sovereignties, which in Derrida’s case can be equated to the logocentric presence in the text.
For Derrida, there could be no ultimate meaning in any text. This belief, combined with the metaphors of Lurianic Kabbalah, expose a political dimension toDerrida’s work.
Derrida was influenced by the Kabbalah in his formulation that ‘there is nothing outside the text’.
The key to grasping the relationship between Derrida’s deconstructionist project and Judaism lies in the Jewish mystical view that ‘reality is a text’ and that the world’s most basic elements are the twenty-two letters of the holy tongue, which are in turn comprised of the four letters (YHVH) of the divine name.
Like Spinoza, Derrida sought to map his exilic situation upon the metaphors of Lurianic Kabbalah.
Some have rather crudely equated Derrida’s programme of deconstruction with the Shevirat HaKelim,the shattering of the vessels. This metaphor, however, is analogous to the Jew’s state of exile amidst a world of multiple sovereignties.
Rather, the programme of deconstruction is Derrida’s contribution to the process of healing and repair, a metaphor for return from exile known in the Lurianic Kabbah as Tikkun.
The removal of all meaning from from all texts leaves one textual mélange of infinite possibilities. Oneness and the infinite are both properties of the Ein Sof of Lurianic Kabbalah, or the originative Substance of Spinoza’s philosophy. To this the exile returns.
Derrida’s formulation of there being ‘nothing outside the text’, combined with the destruction of ultimate meaning in the text, left a border-free grammatical landscape on the page.
This was analogous to globalism in its implications.
Like Luria and Spinoza before, the exiled Derrida found a home in the One by deconstructing the sovereignties of the many.
© John Dunn.