Wittgenstein and Derrida on the Possibility of Meaning: Hierarchy or Non-Hierarchy, Simple or Non-simple Origin, Deferral or Non-Deferral

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Neil B MacDonald

Subject: Arts & Humanities, Philosophy

Keywords: Wittgenstein; Derrida; meaning; hierarchy; deferral; learnability; teachability; différance; origin; identity; difference

Meaning understood in terms of teachability and learnability is crucial to Wittgenstein’s later work. As regards the resolution of philosophical problems – and epistemological problems in particular - this approach seems to posit a hierarchy of meaning that excludes endless deferral. This is the basis of Wittgenstein’s attack on philosophical scepticism. Derrida’s approach to language seems to require both non-hierarchy and endless deferral. Consequently fundamental to his concept of origin is identity and difference simultaneously, irreducibly, non-simply. One question is whether it is possible for there to be a compromise between the two philosophers: a hierarchy of meaning that does not in principle exclude endless deferral.


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