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Jacques Derrida (El-Biar, French Algeria, July 15, 1930 – Paris, October 8, 2004) was a French philosopher of Algerian origin, popularly known for developing a well-known semiotic analysis as deconstruction. It is one of the main figures associated with poststructuralism and postmodern philosophy.
The revolutionary of his work has made him be considered as the new Immanuel Kant by the thinker Emmanuel Lévinas, or the new Friedrich Nietzsche according to Richard Rorty, is perhaps the most controversial thinker of the late twentieth century has raised , for its iconoclasm and its critical commitment. Some consider that he managed to realize the Nietzschean dream of the philosopher-artist.
He was born in the suburbs of Algiers, in the bosom of a Sephardic Jewish family, originally from Toledo and well-off middle class. He suffered the repression of the Vichy government and was expelled in October 1942 from his Algerian institute for racist reasons. That trauma, which he would remember all his life, would help him build his personality.
As compensation, as a young man he participated in numerous sports competitions, and dreamed of being a professional footballer. But already at that time he discovered and read with passion not only classic novelists but also philosophers and writers such as Albert Camus, Antonin Artaud, Paul Valéry, Rousseau, Nietzsche and André Gide.
He went to France. After four years of literary preparatory classes at the Luis el Grande high school in Paris, and with nostalgia for his birthplace, he entered the French Normal Superior School in 1952; there he discovered Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger and Louis Althusser. He soon became a close friend of his tutor Louis Althusser, an affection that would last for life despite ideological differences and the tragedy of the latter, who would say that his student was a “giant” of French philosophy. his teachers was Maurice de Gandillac.
Later, he received a scholarship to study at Harvard University (later he taught at universities in the United States, mainly Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and New York University). He married in June 1957 with Marguerite Aucouturier, translator and future psychoanalyst (they would have two children, Pierre, born in 1963, and Jean, in 1967). Months later he returned to Algeria, as a recruit to fulfill his military service. He requested to be assigned as a teacher in a school for children of soldiers, in Koléa, near Algiers. For more than two years he was a soldier, but without wearing military uniform, and taught French and English to young Algerians and French. In the old colony he treated the future sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Severe critic of the policy of France in Algeria, he dreamed of a form of independence that would allow the coexistence between Algerians and French.
In 1959 he taught for the first time at the Le Mans Lyceum. In 1964 he won the Jean Cavaillès Prize for Epistemology for his translation of Edmund Husserl’s The Origin of Geometry, with a huge introduction. In 1965, in the shadow of Althusser, he obtained the position of director of studies of the Normal Superior School, in the department of Philosophy. He had the support, all his life, of the rigorous historian of science Georges Canguilhem.
His participation, with a group of leading intellectuals -Jean Hyppolite, Georges Poulet, Lucien Goldmann, Roland Barthes, Jean-Pierre Vernant and Jacques Lacan-, at a meeting about the French human sciences in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University), It was decisive.He began his continuous trips to the United States, where he considered having greater freedom and where his thinking had a remarkable influence for life. In 1967 his first three books were published. He was an admirer of the work of Maurice Blanchot, to whom he dedicated important texts, and was associated progressively with Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Sarah Kofman in various projects, for example publishing houses. The Editorial Galilée, of 1971, will become years later not only in the “voice” of the Deconstruction, and its safe place for his work, but in a select company, which is hosting great figures of letters (Bonnefoy, Quignard, Cixous, etc.). At the same time, in 1983, he founded the International Philosophy College. In 1984 he was appointed director of studies at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, where he worked the rest of his life. In the end they prevented him from entering the Collège de France, despite the efforts of Bourdieu or, for example, Bonnefoy. He died on October 8, 2004 in Paris, a victim of pancreatic cancer, never ceasing to work dizzily.
Initially he supported the students during the protests of May ’68, but with reservations, although he participated in protests. He expressed his opposition to the Vietnam War, with “The ends of man” he read in the United States. In 1979 he took the initiative to gather “the general states of philosophy” at the Sorbonne, to defend this discipline, and was increasingly involved in politics, a domain that had apparently been discarded from his professional life but which occupied him for life. In 1981 he founded the association Jan Hus to help dissident Czech intellectuals. In 1981 he was imprisoned in Prague after a seminar of clandestine philosophy and police manipulation of his suitcase (where they introduced drugs), but the protest of intellectuals and Mitterrand will free him.
Since then he was more present in French society (despite the university reluctance) and even let part of his life and his image, previously hidden, were visible (as in The postcard, 1986) and diesen reason even to his own reflection. In 1995 belonged to the support committee, with JP Vernant, the socialist candidate Lionel Jospin. He was a militant from a rigorous work, oblivious to the partisan conjunctures, as it is well perceived in his late Specters of Marx (1993) and Cosmopolitans of all countries, one more effort! (1996).
He participated in the cultural activities in favor of Nelson Mandela, whom he later admired for his political action different from that of Algeria, and against the Apartheid government of South Africa since 1983. He also met with Palestinian intellectuals during his visit to Jerusalem in 1988. He was part of the collective “89 for equality” campaigning for the right of immigrants to vote in local elections. He protested against the death penalty in the USA, devoting the last years of his seminar to the production of non-utilitarian arguments for its abolition, and participated in the campaign to free the black American journalist condemned to death Mumia Abu-Jamal. After expressing solidarity with the victims of the September 11 attacks on New York, he questioned whether it was a “new and greater event” and recalled American war actions, and opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. p>
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