This is the term created by Derrida that defines the basic premise of Postmodernism. It does not mean destruction, but rather it is a critique of the criteria of certainty, identity, and truth.
Derrida says that all communication is characterized by uncertainty because there is no definitive link between the signifier (a word) and the signified (the object to which the word refers). Once a text is written it ceases to have a meaning until a reader reads it. Derrida says that there is nothing but the text and that it is not possible to construe a meaning for a text using a reference to anything outside the text. The text has many internal meanings that are in conflict with themselves (called reflexivity or self-referential) and as a result there is no solid and guaranteed meaning to a text. The text is also controlled by what is not in it (referents outside the text are not a part of its meaning). The consequence of this position is that there can be no final meaning for any text, for as Derrida himself says, “texts are not to be read according to [any method] which would seek out a finished signified beneath a textual surface. Reading is transformational.”
He comments on issues of identity in Western civilization that derive from the reliance on binary oppositions. These are sets that establish a hierarchy that privileges the first over the second. He calls them “violent hierarchies,” and states that they...
(The entire section is 833 words.)
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