Know some of philosophers behind the enemy

Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

The French cultural historian Michel Foucault was a professor at the College de France from 1970; earlier, he had taught in Sweden and West Germany. Foucault examined the codes and theories of order by which societies operate and the “principles of exclusion” through which they define themselves: for example, the sane and the insane, the innocent and the criminal, the insider and the outsider. His thoughts on history and the self have interested contemporary philosophers and literary critics.

His works include

  • Madness and Civilization (1961; Eng. trans., 1965);
  • The Order of Things (1966; Eng. trans., 1971);
  • Death and the Labyrinth (1963; Eng. trans., 1987);
  • The History of Sexuality, 3 vols. (1976-84; Eng. trans., 1978-86).  


Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher and literary critic, formulated the theories that became the basis for deconstruction, a movement that has been influential in both Europe and the United States. In contrast to the structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure and his followers, Derrida maintains that the meaning of language is elusive and hidden and that no definitive interpretation can be established for a written text. His critical method is to “deconstruct” a text by exposing the linguistic and philosophical presuppositions concealed in it.

Derrida’s theories were first made public in a 1966 lecture, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” This lecture is generally accepted as the “birthday” of deconstruction (aka poststructuralism or postmodernism). In it, Derrida, ironically, spends more time attacking and deconstruction modern theorists (i.e., structuralists) than he does the traditional ones.

Derrida’s attack on all theory (whether traditional or modern) has led to a growing suspicion of (and backlash against) theory itself. Indeed, neopragmatists, such as Richard Rorty, have argued that ultimately no link exists between a critic’s theoretical stance and his actual practice, that is, the theory entails no practical consequences.

Most of Derrida’s many writings have been published in English. The most accessible are:

  • Truth in Painting (1978; Eng. trans., 1987);
  • The Post Card (1980; Eng. trans., 1987);
  • Acts of Literature (Eng. trans., 1991).

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