In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2004 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Jacques Derrida is dead — maybe

By Jonathan Gurwitz

Jacques Derrida
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‘Deconstruction’ and the death of common sense

https://www.jewishworldreview.com | The protagonist of Friedrich Nietzsche's seminal work "Thus Spake Zarathustra" declares, "G-d is dead." But it was G-d, or at least nature, that had the final say in the matter.

A clever epigram puts the issue in stark relief.

Nietzsche: "G-d is dead."

G-d: "Nietzsche is dead."

Nietzsche predicted that the decline in traditional beliefs, such as the belief in G-d, would undermine the cultural foundations of morality and set mankind on an inevitable journey toward relativism and nihilism.

After Nietzsche's death, one of the great captains of that journey was Jacques Derrida, an Algerian-born French philosopher whose signal contribution to the relativistic effort was deconstruction, the theory that no ultimate truth or meaning can be found in a text or work of art.

Jacques Derrida is dead. Maybe.

The object here is not to make light of Derrida's death from a painful disease. Rather, it is to demonstrate how such transcendent events can be rendered meaningless by his own theory.

News reports suggest that Derrida succumbed to cancer this month in Paris. Yet those reports may have multiple meanings. Our traditional way of understanding an obituary may be based on false assumptions. The fact that reporters have declared Derrida to be dead may not mean that Derrida is, in fact, dead.

All this may sound like a nonsensical game of semantics to the average person. Which only demonstrates that the average person has more common sense than the great minds of academia seized by the whimsical notion that, for instance, when Thomas Jefferson wrote, "all men are created equal," he quite probably meant precisely the opposite.

Deconstruction has led to some fanciful efforts, stripping meaning from the likes of Plato and Shakespeare and adding it to indolent streams of free verse consciousness.

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The prospect that one's own words could be meaningless was of particular interest to Paul de Man, a Yale University professor who was deconstruction's most ardent advocate in the United States. In 1987, four years after de Man's death, the rediscovery of pro-Nazi, pro-collaborationist and anti-Semitic articles de Man had written as a young man in Nazi-occupied Belgium created a deconstructive scandal.

That's the attraction, and the artifice, of deconstruction. On the one hand, it turns literature — and literary criticism — into an intellectual free-for-all where any notion, no matter how outlandish, has merit. In fact, the more outlandish, and the more peppered with sexual references and progressive political causes, the better.

On the other hand, it means — as Derrida demonstrated in his defense of de Man — that what you write or say ultimately has no meaning.

In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal set out to demonstrate the intellectual vacuousness of deconstruction by submitting an article intentionally devoid of any meaning to the journal Social Text. In writing "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," he sought to test whether a serious academic journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

Sokal's opus sparkled with deconstructive-sounding gems: "These criteria, admirable as they are, are insufficient for a liberatory postmodern science: they liberate human beings from the tyranny of 'absolute truth' and 'objective reality,' but not necessarily from the tyranny of other human beings."

The editors of Social Text couldn't help themselves. "Transgressing the Boundaries" went to print in the Spring/Summer 1996 issue. Course descriptions in the humanities, literature and sociology — to say nothing of gender and race studies — at almost any university reveal the extent to which such deconstructive language is ascendant in academia.

Few intellectual movements have done more to unhinge words from meaning, ideas from philosophical foundations and art from artistry than Derrida's ghastly creation. In 1992, Cambridge University proposed giving Derrida an honorary degree. Twenty professors of philosophy objected that "semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university." In a vote of the full faculty, Derrida's supporters prevailed, 336-204.

Even Sigmund Freud, another contributor to the relativistic cause, is attributed with saying, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Jacques Derrida is dead. Deconstruction, however, lives on, carrying forward the insidious tendency toward relativism and nihilism that Nietzsche presaged more than a century ago.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department. Comment by clicking here.

© 2004, Jonathan Gurwitz