Platonism, Spinoza and the History of Deconstruction

In K. C. Baral & R. Radhakrishnan (eds.), Theory After Derrida: Essays in Critical Praxis. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 74 (2009)
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This paper revisits Derrida’s and Deleuze’s early discussions of “Platonism” in order to challenge the common claim that there is a fundamental divergence in their thought and to challenge one standard narrative about the history of deconstruction. According to that narrative, deconstruction should be understood as the successor to phenomenology. To complicate this story, I read Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy” alongside Deleuze’s discussion of Platonism and simulacra at the end of Logic of Sense. Both discussions present Platonism as the effort to establish a representative order (of original ideas and authorized reproductions of them) with no excess or outside (simulacra, or ideas that cannot be tied to an eidos). Since such pure representation is impossible, Platonism functions by means of the violent suppression of the simulacra and pharamakoi that exceed its eidetic structures. To overcome Platonism is thus not to reverse it, but to establish something like a practice of counter-memorials: detecting, exhuming, and writing back textual traces of what Platonism excludes. I then briefly apply this practice to narratives about the history of deconstruction, and suggest that they tend to occlude precisely the materialist elements of that history, as (for example) the importance of Spinoza as an interlocutor. In other words, the emerging canonical narrative about deconstruction runs the risk of repeating the Platonic gesture that Derrida spent his career writing against.

Author's Profile

Gordon Hull
University of North Carolina, Charlotte


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