However widely - and differently - Jacques Derrida may be viewed as a ""foundational"" French thinker, the most basic questions concerning his work still remain unanswered: Is Derrida a friend of reason, or philosophy, or rather the most radical of skeptics? Are language-related themes - writing, semiosis - his central concern, or does he really write about something else? And does his thought form a system of its own, or does it primarily consist of commentaries on individual texts? This book seeks to address these questions by returning to what it claims is essential history: the development of Derrida's core thought through his engagement with Husserlian phenomenology. Joshua Kates recasts what has come to be known as the Derrida/Husserl debate, by approaching Derrida's thought historically, through its development. Based on this developmental work, ""Essential History"" culminates by offering discrete interpretations of Derrida's two book-length 1967 texts, interpretations that elucidate the until now largely opaque relation of Derrida's interest in language to his focus on philosophical concerns. A fundamental reinterpretation of Derrida's project and the works for which he is best known, Kates's study fashions a new manner of working with the French thinker that respects the radical singularity of his thought as well as the often different aims of those he reads. Such a view is in fact ""essential"" if Derrida studies are to remain a vital field of scholarly inquiry, and if the humanities, more generally, are to have access to a replenishing source of living theoretical concerns.
Joshua Kates is a tenured faculty member at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
1. The Success of Deconstruction: Derrida, Rorty, Gasche, Bennington, and the Quasi-Transcendental; 2. ""A Consistent Problematic of Writing and the Trace:"" The Debate in Derrida/Husserl Studies and the Problem of Derrida's Development; 3. Derrida's 1962 Interpretation of Writing and Truth: Writing in the ""Introduction to Husserl's 'Origin of Geometry'""; 4. The Development of Deconstruction as a Whole and the role of Le probleme de la genese dans la philosophie de Husserl; 5. Husserl's Circuit of Expression and the Phenomenological Voice: Speech and Phenomena; 6. Essential History: Derrida's Reading of Saussure and His Reworking of Heldeggerean History.