Jacques Derrida (15 July 1930 – 8 October 2004) was a Jewish philosopher born in Algeria. He developed the critical technique known as deconstruction, and his work has been associated both with post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy. His prolific output of more than 40 published books, together with essays and public speaking, has had a significant impact upon the humanities, particularly on literary theory and continental philosophy. His best known assertion with regard to his methodology is that “there is no outside-the-text.”

Derrida was always uncomfortable with the popularity of the term “deconstruction” and the corresponding tendency to reduce his philosophical work to that particular label. In spite of his reservations, deconstruction has become associated with the attempt to expose and undermine the oppositions and paradoxes on which particular texts, philosophical and otherwise, are founded. He frequently called such paradoxes “binary oppositions.” Derrida’s strategy involved explicating the historical roots of philosophical ideas, questioning the so-called “metaphysics of presence” that he sees as having dominated philosophy since the ancient Greeks, careful textual analysis, and attempting to undermine and subvert the paradoxes themselves.

Derrida’s work has had implications across many fields, including literature, architecture (in the form of deconstructivism), sociology, and cultural studies. Particularly in his later writings, he frequently addressed ethical and political themes, and his work influenced various activist and other political movements. His widespread influence made him a well-known cultural figure, while his approach to philosophy and the purported difficulty of his work also made him a figure of some controversy. His work has been seen as a challenge to the unquestioned assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition and Western culture as a whole.

WHAT COMES BEFORE THE QUESTION? (Interview fragment, 6min)