Thursday, March 17, 2005


This scientific quietus of one walking fallacy was found at Language Log.
This recent interview with Jacques Derrida reminds me of a parlor game that a colleague of mine claims to have played, back in the day when it was easier to find academics who took Derrida seriously.

My colleague would open one of Derrida's works to a random page, pick a random sentence, write it down, and then (above or below it) write a variant in which positive and negative were interchanged, or a word or phrase was replaced with one of opposite meaning. He would then challenge the assembled Derrida partisans to guess which was the original and which was the variant. The point was that Derrida's admirers are generally unable to distinguish his pronouncements from their opposites at better than chance level....

Consider the following random phrase from Of Grammatology, Chapter 2: "difference is never in itself a sensible plenitude".

My colleague's technique produces variants like "difference is always in itself a sensible plenitude," "difference is never a sensible plenitude in relation to other things," "similarity is never in itself a sensible plenitude," "difference is never in itself a sensible emptiness," and "difference is never in itself an imperceptible plenitude."

Or my personal favorite variant, "similarity is always in itself an imperceptible emptiness," which I feel is a great improvement over the original.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com