Founder of deconstructionist movement discussed in panel symposium

Apanel of CSUN professors from different fields, met to discuss the life of accomplished and controversial Philosopher, Jacques Derrida, on Monday, February 14.

The panel discussion, entitled, Derrida and the Legacy of Post-Modernism, was held in the Presentation Room of The Oviatt Library, and included Mutombo Nkulu-N’ Sengha,Religious Studies professor, Jack Solomon,English professor, Brigit Tregenza,Philosophy professor and York Gunther,Philosophy professor. James Kellenberger also a philosophy professor acted as moderator.

The discussion was held in memory of Derrida, who passed away last October, and was known as the founder of the deconstructionist movement that has been studied in various fields such as law, ethics and, most notably, literature.

Deconstruction is the complicated process that seeks to break down objects, theories, and literature to their essence, in order to find contradictions and conflicts to criticize.

Professor Solomon was the first to present his views on Derrida. He proved that Derrida deconstructed everything, from Hegel’s “master-slave” theory to the concept of good hospitality.

According to his colleague Gunther, he gave the audience an “adolescent” demonstration of the difference between the letters A and B, saying, “A is A because it is not B.”

He also demonstrated this with the letter A typed out in different fonts, labeling them as different “types” of the same thing. “It is difference at work” he said of this.

Next up was Religious Studies professor, Mutombo Nkulu-N’ Sengha, who brought to light Derrida’s deconstruction of Hegel’s Anti-Semitism. According to Hegel, the truth of Philosophy is Christianity, for it is the only religion of love and reason. He believed that the Jews were alienated by love and if not eliminated, they would eliminate the rights of humans.

Professor Tregenza laid out the differences of structure and deconstruction.

Structure calls for coherence, balances and parallels, while deconstruction involves looking for disunity, contradictions and shifts. She also addressed Derrida’s influence in the art world by pointing out that he criticized two philosophers’ view of a van Gogh painting.

Finally, Philosophy professor, York Gunther, discussed what it was like before the “technique” of deconstruction came to be and what he thinks was Derrida’s main goal. “There is some notion of meaning that is stable today, it is this notion that (became) Derrida’s target” said Gunther.

After the four panelist presented their views, the audience was allowed to ask questions and comment on anything. One listener remembered Solomon’s reference to the classic novel 1984, and the concept of “double speak” (contradicting statements and phrases) and drew a parallel to the current administration’s application of the Patriot Act. To that, Nkulu-N’ Sengha answered “Precisely now is the time to deconstruct.”

When asked what was hoped to be accomplished with the panel discussion, Moderator James Kellenberger said, “This was an opportunity to have a discussion in honor of Derrida, whom the participants were appropriately critical of,” and “to provide the University community with a better understanding of Derrida’s legacy.”

It was co-sponsored by the Departments of English, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Modern and Classical languages and Literatures, and Women’s Studies, also by the Center for Ethics and Value and the Student Philosophy Society.

The discussion closed with Kellenberger and Professor Soloman pointing out one of Derrida’s many contradictions, to which Kellenberger commented, “Well, perhaps it is appropriate that we end with an inconsistency!”