Although some would denounce his philosophical theories as obtuse, there are many who would acclaim Jacques Derrida as the most influential contemporary philosopher. It was not until he moved to Paris, France in 1949 that Derrida's philosophies began to really form in part from the influence of French-Jewish writer, Jacob Jabs, French-Jewish philosopher Emanuel Lvinas, Marxist theory, and Heidegger's philosophies.
Derrida was born on July 15 1930, in Biar, Algeria. It was in the late 1960's that Derrida's philosophies were first introduced with the 1967 publication of his books, Writing and Difference, and Of Grammatology. During this period he also had the opportunity to publish his works in France's, Tel Quel, which included other works by then prominent Postmodernists, Bataille, Foucault, and Baudrillard. However, Derrida is best known as the founder of Deconstructionist theory, in which he takes apart western metaphysics and emphasizes the critical reading of texts, questioning the way writers, readers, and philosophers construct meaning, the structure of knowledge, and what the general public proclaims to be self-evident, logical, and real. "He argued that understanding something requires a grasp of the ways in which it relates to other things, and a capacity to recognise it on other occasions and in different contexts - which can never be exhaustively predicted. He coined the term "differance" ( différance in French, combining the meanings of difference and deferral) to characterize these aspects of understanding, and proposed that differance is the phenomenon lying at the heart of language and thought, at work in all meaningful activities in a necessarily elusive and provisional way.1
Among his other works, Derrida is known for his publication Margins of Philosophy (1972) and Specters of Marx (1993). Most recently, he was known to have written texts that relate to the September 11, attacks on the United States. The essays were titled, "The Concept of September 11" and "Hoodlum."
Before utilizing his knowledge, Derrida studied at the Parisian Cole Normale Suprierure, and later became a professor at the Sorbonne from 1960-1964, the Ecole Normale Superieure from 1964-1984, and a director at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales in Paris. From 1986 on, he was Professor of Philosophy, French and Comparative Literature at the University of California in Irvine. In 1992, he received an honorary degree from Cambridge University.
On October 8, 2004, one of this centuries greatest modern philosophers died of pancreatic cancer.
1Derek Attridge and Thomas Baldwin, "Jacques Derrida," Guardian Unlimited, (October 11, 2004)
Sources: Jewish Post and Stanford Presidential Lectures in the Humanities and Arts