Deconstruction, Destruktion, and Dialogue

Jeff Mitscherling

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While Derrida’s critique of Heidegger has received some attention over the past few decades, the difference between Derrida’s conception of “deconstruction” and the hermeneutic conception of Destruktion has never been clearly described. It is this difference that Gadamer called to our attention in his essay, “Destruktion und Dekonstruktion,” and which I would like briefly to clarify in this paper by contrasting Gadamer’s hermeneutic Destruktion to Derrida’s deconstruction. As I shall explain, this difference accounts for the disagreement between the two thinkers regarding the possibility of engaging in a dialogue with a text. After its initial task of “deconstruction,” hermeneutic Destruktion, as Gadamer describes it, has the further task of reviving the issues raised by the text in such a way as to render the text a partner in discussion. It is this dialogue with the text that, according to Gadamer, Derrida’s deconstruction disallows.

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