Contemporary European Philosophy I (PHIL*6140) | College of Arts

Contemporary European Philosophy I (PHIL*6140)

Term: Winter 2014


This is a course on Jacques Derrida’s theory of signifiers, concentrating on his great early works of the 1960’s. Derrida has had an enormous influence on the philosophy of language, on political philosophy, and on the interpretation of the history of metaphysics. The issues around signifiers are connected to Derrida’s other topics of writing, difference, presence, and deconstruction. His invention of “deconstruction” has often been misunderstood, but it is extremely interesting, important, and useful for anyone interested in meaning. Derrida’s writing is difficult, and his ideas are highly controversial, but in this instructor’s view, studying Derrida is essential for anyone who wants to understand and do philosophy in a contemporary way. We will study Derrida’s texts closely (sympathetically as well as critically), and we will consider his work in relation to movements of structuralism and semiotics, and in relation to disciplines like literary theory and anthropology (and more briefly, to psychoanalysis). The most important thing that students will take from this course is a range of options for thinking about how “signifiers” work.


PDF icon PHIL6140 W14 Syllabus.pdf32.46 KB