What's the definition of the idea of "play" as developed by Jacques Derrida?

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Anything related to Derrida is notoriously difficult to explain. But in a nutshell his concept of play challenges the traditionally structured approach to human knowledge. That is what we mean when we say that Derrida is a post-structuralist; he is abandoning the structuralist approach to knowledge as traditionally understood.

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Anything related to Derrida is notoriously difficult to explain. But in a nutshell his concept of play challenges the traditionally structured approach to human knowledge. That is what we mean when we say that Derrida is a post-structuralist; he is abandoning the structuralist approach to knowledge as traditionally understood.

Whether in science, philosophy, or history, knowledge in the Western tradition has always been grounded in a structure whose ultimate basis lies in a fixed point or center. Although the structure of knowledge may change over time, the fixed point remains precisely that, a foundation which as Derrida puts it, escapes structurality. Paradoxically, the center is the basis of structured knowledge while at the same time being outside of it.

In terms of language, however, Derrida argues that the notion of a unifying center is impossible. There are two reasons for this. First of all, because the sheer breadth of experience that the center tries to signify forever lies beyond its grasp. And secondly, because language, of its very nature, involves "freeplay."

What this means is that the precise meaning of the words that we use is always open, never fixed. That being the case, the very notion of a fixed point or center in all forms of human discourse—which, of necessity, employ language—is irrelevant. The center of any such discourse seeks to fix the precise meaning of the concepts it uses. But Derrida argues that this is impossible, as the inherently playful nature of language, with its multiplicity of different meanings, militates against it.

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According to Jaques Derrida, "play" is elemental in the concept of the integrity, the unity, of absence and presence, which are the play of difference. Play is "the disruption of presence." It is in fact the originator of absence and presence. Play is in language. Play is in words. Play is in concepts.

Since for Derrida nothing is outside of differences in presence and absence--the system of difference--then play is that which extends the domains of meaning from the narrative or discoursive structural center thereby opening an infinity of meaning for words and language and concepts. This proves his assertion that "all is textual play with no connection with original truth." Play is the exploration of meaning.

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