PHILOSOPHY 480. Deconstruction: Ethics and Politics

grammatology pauldeman spectersofmarx politicsoffriend cosmopolitanism bennington

Earlham College, Spring Semester 2003-2004
Monday, Thursday 2:20-3:50 Carpenter 322
Instructor: Ferit Güven
Office: Carpenter 328
Office Hours: Wednesday 2:30-3:30; Friday 1:00-2:00 and by appointment
Office Phone: 983-1399

Course Description: Deconstruction is one of the most important philosophical movements of contemporary philosophy.  Its influence exceeds the limits of philosophy as a discipline.  It has transformed various disciplines of the humanities including literary criticism, languages, anthropology and history, as well as several branches of the arts.  Deconstruction as a movement has several theoreticians, yet in philosophy Jacques Derrida is the most influential figure; therefore, we will approach deconstruction through his writings.  As a study of this philosophical movement this course has several aims: First, it aims to introduce you to the basic philosophical arguments of deconstruction.  Secondly, it will concentrate on the ethical and political implications of deconstruction.  As you might know, deconstruction in general and Derrida in particular have been the subject of various misinterpretations.  These misinterpretations occured at two levels: First, Derrida was not considered to be a legitimate philosopher nor deconstruction a proper philosophical movement. Secondly, Derrida's writings were considered to be non-ethical, apolitical etc.  Both of these misinterpretations have already been exposed as false.  Thus, we will study Derrida's writings both in terms of its conceptual relationship to the history of philosophy as well as in terms of their important ethical and political sensibility.  If there is a critique of Derrida in this course, this will not be launched from a conservative standpoint of  accusing him of being too radical, but from what one might call a postcolonial perspective that regards Derrida as not radical enough but rather in continuity with the history of Western philosophy.

Reading Assignments: (available in the Earlham College bookstore)
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, corrected edition,  (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)
------------------, Memoires for Paul de Man, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)
------------------, Specters of Marx (London: Routledge, 1994)
------------------, Politics of Friendship (London: Verso, 1997)
------------------, Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, (London: Routledge, 2001)
Geoffrey Bennington, Jacques Derrida, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1999)

In addition to these texts, there will be selections in photocopy form and will be placed on reserve at the Lilly Library.
Jacques Derrida, "Différance" from Margins of Philosophy
------------------, "Signature Event Context" from Margins of Philosophy
------------------, "Force of Law" from Acts of Religion

Derrida's writings have been considered to be notoriously difficult to read.  This difficulty comes from two sources.  First Derrida makes frequent references to the history of philosophy in his writings.  As a result a proper understanding of Derrida's writings requires an extensive knowledge of the history of philosophy.  Secondly, Derrida refuses to simplify complex thoughts.  He regards philosophical language as an inextricable part of philosophizing..  Hence, despite the fact that Derrida's writings are difficult at first they are by no means impenetrable.  They are neither sloppy, nor simply playful or artistic.  They are rigorous articulations of complex ideas.  Our course will be oriented to close readings of Derrida's writings.  Instead of getting discouraged and dismissing Derrida's arguments as "not saying anything," read every text assigned for the week at least twice and formulate your difficulties in order to be able to discuss them during class sessions.

Requirements and Evaluation: You are expected to write four papers (5-7 pages). The first three papers will be mainly explanation or exegesis of the text. I will provide topics for each of these assignments. For the last paper you are encouraged to decide on your own topic/question.  For every paper (including papers on topics of your own choice) you are responsible for following the general guidelines provided.
Each week two students will prepare a protocol.
A protocol is a carefully edited summary/notes of the previous class session written in full sentences. Protocols will be 2 single-spaced pages and will be photocopied by the student who wrote it and handed out to all students at the beginning of each class to be read aloud.  The protocol will serve as a cumulative record of the course. In addition to reviewing the material covered in the previous class, it should include announcements made in class and questions not addressed in class. The best protocols will be those that do not simply reproduce word for word everything that was said during class, but that rearrange the material thematically, editing out what was unimportant and emphasizing what was significant. One of the advantages of the protocols is to allow you to think during class and not just take notes; because someone will be taking notes for you, you can concentrate on the ideas being presented, and participate without having to write constantly. Also, you will have a summary of every class which will help you with writing papers.

Your grade will be calculated according to the following distribution: Paper 1: 20%; Paper 2: 20%; Paper 3: 20%; Final Paper: 20%; Protocol: 10%;
Class participation and attendance: 10%.  There will be no final examination.

The success of this course depends on your contribution. I am not inclined to legislate strict attendance policies, with the conviction that you will be mature enough to attend all classes. However, if you miss more than four sessions you will fail this course regardless of your grade.

Office hours are for students to discuss ideas, assignments and questions. You are encouraged and welcome to come by my office or make appointments for times other than scheduled office hours. You should take advantage of office hours and appointments not simply to discuss your papers (you are obviously welcome to do that too) but also to understand ideas, and texts discussed in class, or discuss your own ideas.

Our sessions will start at 2:30 pm. Students are expected to come on time. Walking into (and out of) the classroom while the session is in progress is very disruptive for everybody.  I ask you not to do these.

Any student with a documented disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact the instructor and Disability Services Office (Academic Support Services) at the beginning of the semester. Accommodation arrangements must be made during the first-two weeks of the semester.

There may be some modifications to this calendar. It is your responsibility to be aware of these changes. These changes will be announced in class. If you miss a class you should make sure that you are informed about the assignments for the next session.

Week 1:
January 15: Introduction
Week 2:
January 19: "Différance"
January 22: "Différance"
Week 3:
January 26: "Signature Event Context"
January 29: "Signature Event Context"
Week 4:
February 2: Of Grammatology
February 5: Of Grammatology
Week 5:
February 9: Of Grammatology
February 12: Of Grammatology; 1st paper due
Week 6:
February 16: Memoires for Paul de Man
February 19: Mid-Semester Break
Week 7:
February 23: Memoires for Paul de Man
Febraury 26: Memoires for Paul de Man
Week 8:
March 1: "Force of Law"
March 4: "Force of Law"
Week 9:
March 8: "Force of Law"
March 11: "Force of Law"; 2nd paper due
March 15- March 19: Spring Break
Week 10:
March 22: Specters of Marx
March 25: Specters of Marx
Week 11:
March 29: Specters of Marx
April 1:  Specters of Marx
Week 12:
April 5: Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness; 3rd paper due
April 8: Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness
Week 13:
April 12: Politics of Friendship
April 15: Politics of Friendship
Week 14:
April 19: Politics of Friendship
April 22: Politics of Friendship
Week 15:
April 26: Review and Evaluation

Final paper: April 30

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