Why We Need Deconstruction

Tuesday 29 October, 2013
6:30pm, $0

New York University, Deutsches Haus
42 Washington Mews

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Philosopher and publisher Peter Engelmann discusses his new book on Jacques Derrida’s “rational theory” and its “political value as the basis of anti-totalitarianism,” with Deutsches Haus director Martin Rauchbauer.

Please join us for a discussion on questions of philosophy and politics. Jacques Derrida’s philosophical approach of deconstruction is the most successful and, at the same time, the most unknown philosophical innovation since Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. Deconstruction has established itself in countless ramifications in various artistic and literary practices, without having tied to it a clear representation of its very concept and philosophical strategy. The anti-totalitarian motivation behind deconstruction, which is essential if we want to understand it, has remained almost completely hidden. In fact, deconstruction makes a soberly scientific description thereof rather difficult, since it systematically rejects any finality in its conceptual definition. This characteristic is not only at the core of Derrida’s philosophical intervention, but also a necessary condition of an anti-totalitarian political stance that does not itself turn into rigid totalitarianism.

Engelmann shows that Saussure’s semiotics is the sober scientific language with which Derrida developed deconstruction and with which we can understand deconstruction without covering up its idiosyncrasies and cognitive potential with the language we use to describe it. Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida’s Semiotic Turn in Philosophy places deconstruction in the larger context of historic and contemporary approaches to the philosophy of difference and re-establishes them in the context of philosophical discursivity.

The evening is part of our Passagen Series with Peter Engelmann, the German philosopher, editor and founder of the prestigious publishing house Passagen Verlag. In this series Engelmann engages important thinkers from Europe and the United States. The discussions examine key concepts of contemporary continental philosophy, such as deconstruction and postmodernism, as they relate to his guests’ various fields of expertise - among them architecture, philosophy, politics, and human rights.

Why We Need Deconstruction is an event in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum New York and Passagen Verlag Vienna. It is also a DAAD-sponsored event.

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