On the subject of Derrida and ‘differance’, let me begin by saying, even at the risk of sounding facetious, that I am glad I am different from Derrida. My reasons are far from noble. By being different, I am relieved of the responsibility of paraphrasing his work in a way that mirrors his own thoughts. (Nothing dictates that I should, or even could, but that is another matter) The following, then, is my own unique and different interpretation of some of the interpretations of this philosopher of philosophers. For my own part, I will not be so arrogant as to presume that I am creating new knowledge by engaging in this speculative exercise. However, if you are guided by the logic that to interpret is to innovate, you may still choose to see me in that role. Whether the performance is to my credit or not will depend largely, of course, on your own reading of what follows. Make of it what you will. By all means, shower me with compliments or rain me with insults. I am sometimes a grudging donor, but always a grateful recipient. With that said, I take no further responsibility for what I unleash on this page. I lost control of it (perhaps I never had control of it) as soon as it escaped my pen (or wherever else it came from). Lastly, my foregoing levity is not to be construed as a mark of disrespect for the great man. Perhaps silence is the only appropriate panegyric to his stupendous scholarship. Failing that option, I shall now sally forth on my metaphysical journey. Says Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou now what course thou wilt.”
Derrida and structure: (This, as I understand it, is Derrida’s take on the kind of philosophy that subscribes to structured thinking) He says that the concept of a ‘structure’ and the word “structure” itself, are as old as western philosophy and western science, suggesting that both incorporate this said structure and that it is deeply embedded in language itself. As writing is the material form of language, it is the structure of writing that seems to fascinate him, above all. While examining the structurality of structure, he notes that a structure always has a center, which not only balances and organizes it but also limits the freeplay (flexibility?) of its elements. The notion of a structure without a center seems unthinkable and disorienting. The center is unique and represents that fixed constant point at which any further substitution is forbidden. Through this prohibition, it offers the structure its sense of stability. It governs the structure but itself avoids structurality. Thus, the paradox faced by classical thought (which, of course, subscribes to structurality) is that its center is both within the structure (in the sense that it organizes the structurality of the structure) and outside it (in the sense that it escapes the very rules of transmutation that it applies to all other elements in the structure). Therefore the center is within but does not belong and the totality has its center elsewhere. In other words, the center is not the center. The concept of a centered structure suggests a coherence that it does not have. And where there is a lack of coherence, there is always the desire to attain such coherence. The concept of a structure is based upon freeplay that revolves around a fundamental immobility, a source of certitude and reassurance that placates our anxieties – the center. This center, by virtue of being both within and without, serves as both the origin and the end of our history of ‘meaning’. And what reassurance does it provide? First, that there is an origin or a starting point in history, which can be determined, and from which all meaning took root and, second, that this history has an end, which can be anticipated in the form of the present. To put it briefly, the center of the structure of language is the reassuring state of ‘being’. In its lexicon, when we come upon the idea of ‘being’, we have arrived at that ultimate point, the center, where no further metaphorical substitution of ideas is permitted. All other concepts in language may be metaphorical, but our state of ‘being’ is not. To us, it is the ultimate reality. We exist, we are. Perhaps ‘being’ is Derrida’s transcendental signifier (that which transcends all the substitutions of language – that which exists outside the realm of language – that which gives us our life’s meaning - that which is) and the word ‘reality’, which names this state of ‘being’, is the ultimate signifier.
The whole history of the concept of structure must therefore be thought of as a series of substitutions of center for center. Successively, over time, the center receives different forms or names, but its rock solid position in relation to the structure never changes. All the names related to this center (this fundament) have always designated a constant (a presence) – God (within the structure of Religion), Man (within the structure of Science) and so on. Man-centered Science may replace God-centered Religion, but the centered structure that hosts this arrangement never goes away. According to Derrida, the history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of these metaphors and metonymies (successive symbolic substitutions). It is preoccupied with the determination of ‘being’ as an actual ‘presence’.
Derrida thinks that ‘an event’, which he calls ‘a rupture’, has occurred in the history of the concept of structure. When did this disruption come about? Presumably, when the structurality of structure began to be questioned for the first time. From then on, it was necessary to think that there was no center, that the center could not be thought of in the form of a fixed ‘beingpresent’, that it was not a constant entity but a function in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions occur. This was the moment in which, in the absence of a center or origin, everything became discourse. At this point, everything became a system in which no ultimate transcendental signified existed, either external to the system or in the absolute sense. The absence of the transcendental signified extends the process of signification to infinity. The system no longer exists in the absolute. It is now a system of differences. Gone is the system of knowledge that believes in an ultimate referent that it can appeal to. In its place is a system of knowledge that acknowledges that all meaning derives from a tendency to observe difference. Poststructuralism, then, as I understand it, is not afraid to recognize structure, neither does it aim to destroy structure. (Can it destroy structure?) Instead, it is an avowal of a non-centered structure, one that has no ultimate referent but only infinite metaphorical displacements. To the poststructuralist, ‘meaning’ is not absolute but is only discernible as a difference from other perceived forms of meaning.

(In progress…..)