Deconstruction (Post-structuralism)


Against seeing language as a stable and closed system.



Ferdinand de Saussure:

Linguistic sign = signifier (word) + signified (concept)

Relation between signifier & signified is arbitrary and linear (relational, conventional, based on its relation or difference from other words not on any innate quality it has)



Derrida's addition to Saussure:

Like signifier, signified is also arbitrary and relational. The two elements are interchangeable.

I filled the glass with milk (glass is signifier for container which is the signified)

I filled the container with glass (container becomes a signifier)


Binary Opposition:

In binary opposition there are two opposing concepts, according to Western philosophy one concept is superior and other is inferior e.g: good/bad, man/woman, and humans/animals.


Transcendental Signified:

A signified that is understood without being compared or related to other signifieds or signifiers. These self-defined terms (God, reason, origin, being, essence, truth, humanity, beginning, end, and self) are invented by Western Metaphysics and function as centers.

This promotes the belief that individuals exist as stable entities separate from the world. Derrida insists that the human subject is created in language, not existing before it.



The belief that there is an ultimate reality on which we can base our thoughts and actions. We can't escape Logocentrism as even if we question this central or transcendental signifier, we do this by opposing it to another signifier. (We decenter signifier by centering its opposite)



In the speech/writing binary, speech is privileged because people express directly the ideas that come into their minds while in writing people capture an idea that already was spoken. Speech also signifies the speaker's presence, while writing signifies the author's presence. Thus the hierarchy of presence/absence comes with the hierarchy of speech/writing.



Coined by Derrida (from differ and defer)

Differ: a word is known not through what it is but through its difference to other words

Defer: meaning is always deferred or postponed (as to define a word we relate it to another)


Steps to a deconstructive reading:

     find the binary operations in a text

     comment on the values beyond these operations

     reverse their binary operations

     dismantle previously held beliefs and worldviews

     accept the possibility of multiple meanings

     allow meaning of text to be undecidable