Note: Derrida's thought is incredibly subtle and not easily reduced to paraphrase.
textbook, the editor has done a valiant job of selecting portions of "Plato's Pharmacy," but
he has also left out portions that would make more clear the sections that we read.
notes to get an idea of what to look for in your reading, but do not take my notes as an
attempt to summarize the argument of the entire text.
Use the notes as a way of entering
the text through different doors.
Study the notes and then read the text again.
class with questions related to specific aspects of what you have read, but don't take it for
granted that either I or your fellow students have mastered every context in this text.
class, when you point to a specific passage, you need to try and explain the context in which
the passage appears.
It's the effort that counts.
A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from the first glance, the law
of its composition and the rules of its game
These laws and rules are never strictly
can never be reduced to "
anything that could rigorously be called a perception
of Derrida's thought is summed up in these opening remarks.
For Derrida, a text is an object
that has the structure of a trace.
It is something that makes sense or whose operation can be
understood only with respect to an origin that is not present.
The meaning of the trace can
only be determined through an act of interpretation that must necessarily posit something that
it cannot, strictly speaking, know.
If you look at words on paper, at a poem for example, in
order to make sense out of them, you have to posit something like an intention on the part of
an author or a context that is not self-evident in the words themselves.
Ultimately, by text,
Derrida does not just mean words on paper but any phenomenal object that has the structure
of the trace, that can be understood only with reference to an origin or context that is not
fully present in the object.
Spoken language itself can be considered such a trace to the
extent that it does not expose to view the systematic structures and rules that explain how it is
possible, how it works.
That system and those rules must be constructed by the science of
linguistics; and, science or not, linguistics is a mode of interpretation.
When someone speaks
or writes to you, you do not have direct access to their intentions or their understanding of the
context in which they speak, i.e., you do not have access to something beyond the spoken or
By the same token, a historical event or any everyday occurrence or
perception has the structure of the trace and is a text in that sense.
Understanding even the
most elementary event requires knowledge that exceeds that which is immediately present to
us; it requires an interpretation.
Derrida even goes so far as to suggest that a pure perception,
a phenomenal object that is completely present to us as a thing in itself, beyond