Who Was Jacques Derrida?: An Intellectual Biography

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9780300115420: Who Was Jacques Derrida?: An Intellectual Biography

Who Was Jacques Derrida? is the first intellectual biography of Derrida, the first full-scale appraisal of his career, his influence, and his philosophical roots.  It is also the first attempt to define his crucial importance as the ambassador of "theory," the phenomenon that has had a profound influence on academic life in the humanities. Mikics lucidly and sensitively describes for the general reader Derrida's deep connection to his Jewish roots. He succinctly defines his vision of philosophy as a discipline that resists psychology. While pointing out the flaws of that vision and Derrida’s betrayal of his most adamantly expounded beliefs, Mikics ultimately concludes that “Derrida was neither so brilliantly right nor so badly wrong as his enthusiasts and critics, respectively, claimed." 

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About the Author:

David Mikics is professor of english at the University of Houston. He published his last book, A New Handbook of Literary Terms, with Yale University Press.

From Publishers Weekly:

The ideas of the arch-deconstructionist philosopher are illuminated but not entirely clarified in this ambivalent study. Mikics (A New Handbook of Literary Terms) gives an insightful and blessedly readable rundown of Derrida's debt—and objections—to such thinkers as Husserl, Sartre, Nietzsche and Freud. He's less successful at explicating Derrida's own doctrines—the resistance of language to stable meanings, the opacity of the self, the relativism of morals—perhaps because Derrida disdained the very concept of explicability. The author frames his subject as a skeptic trying to expunge psychology and metaphysics from philosophy, but the quotations he proffers—Justice remains to come, it remains by coming, it has to come, it is to come, the to-come—make Derrida seem as semi-intelligible as detractors claim. Mikics is most compelling when he criticizes Derrida—for misrepresenting other philosophers, for betraying his own principles and for his weaselly defense of the anti-Semitic writings of literary critic Paul de Man, an exercise in deconstructionism as sophistry and deceit. Mikics finds Derrida neither so brilliantly right nor so badly wrong as reputed, but his sharp portrait can make Derrida, in certain lights, seem very wrong indeed. (Dec.)
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