Derrida Quote of the Day
Was Derrida a postmodern relativist?
[This passage is to be found in the context of his discussion of the possibility of a basic ground of understanding on which to base his debate with Searle. Limited Inc, p. 146]
For of course there is a “right track” [une 'bonne voie"], a better way, and let it be said in passing how surprised I have often been, how amused or discouraged, depending on my humor, by the use or abuse of the following argument: Since the deconstructionist (which is to say, isn’t it, the skeptic-relativist-nihilist!) is supposed not to believe in truth, stability, or the unity of meaning, in intention or “meaning-to-say” how can he demand of us that we read him with pertinence, preciSion, rigor? How can he demand that his own text be interpreted correctly? How can he accuse anyone else of having misunderstood, simplified, deformed it, etc.? In other words, how can he discuss, and discuss the reading of what he writes? The answer is simple enough: this definition of the deconstructionist is false (that’s right: false, not true) and feeble; it supposes a bad (that’s right: bad, not good) and feeble reading of numerous texts, first of all mine, which therefore must finally be read or reread. Then perhaps it will be understood that the value of truth (and all those values associated with it) is never contested or destroyed in my writings, but only reinscribed in more powerful, larger, more stratified contexts. And that within interpretive contexts (that is, within relations of force that are always differential — for example, socio-political-institutional — but even beyond these determinations) that are relatively stable, sometimes apparently almost unshakeable, it should be possible to invoke rules of competence, criteria of discussion and of consensus, good faith, lucidity, rigor, criticism, and pedagogy.
I rest my case.
As for the “relativism” they [Sokal and Bricmont] are supposed to be worried about—well, even if this word has a rigorous philosophical meaning, there’s not a trace of it in my writing. Nor of a critique of Reason and the Enlightenment. Quite the contrary.
From Paper Machine, p. 71