Destruktion and deconstruction

The theory of deconstruction developed by Jacques Derrida has been enormously influential. In brief, it calls for the subversion and dismantlement of philosophical and social structures, hierarchies and oppositions, in order to avoid “violence”. But the concept was not original to Derrida: its core was borrowed from Martin Heidegger’s idea of destruktion, the end result of that thinker’s large-scale critique of Western metaphysics. Derrida removed destruktion from its original context and expanded it beyond Heidegger’s intentions, which arguably weakened it. Deconstruction is fatally Eurocentric and self-contradictory. However, Heidegger’s less ambitious project of destruktion, while ultimately flawed, is not prone to these same failings.

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stilleatingoranges asked: Hi. Your recent post about conflict was an interesting read, but your conclusion about Derridean philosophy is horribly flawed. That plot structure doesn't undermine it at all--it obviously contains violence, because there are differences between the acts. For Derrida, ALL difference is violence. So, reading the will to power into that kishotenketsu thing is absolutely no problem.

Hey, Oranges. That’s an interesting objection. However, you’ve missed the point. The idea was that difference is only violence if your thinking is built on the will to power. Under that system, yes; the kishōtenketsu structure remains violent. But to look at it that way begs the question: whether the will to power can be considered the most fundamental element of being is what’s at issue.

This writer’s claim was that an equally viable candidate can be considered to exist within the kishōtenketsu structure, which constitutes much Eastern writing and even logic. It inundates their culture and thought, just as ideas of conflict and supremacy—at least partly thanks to the three-act plot structure—inundate the West. For your objection to work, you’d first have to demonstrate that the will to power describes being more accurately than any possible system derived from kishōtenketsu. To pull that off, you’d need to maintain a multicultural perspective free from the Eurocentric bias that defines so much of Western philosophy.

As an aside, whether or not difference turns out to be violence, deconstruction makes no sense if stated from a worldview based on kishōtenketsu rather than the three-act structure. This is because the worst violence—the thing that Derrida seeks to avoid with deconstruction—does not necessarily exist within such a system. The worst violence can be thought of as the climax of the three-act structure, the part in which one thing wholly defeats another; but kishōtenketsu contains no such climax. It is comparative to the last. Events co-exist without one being forced to suffocate the Other, so to speak.

The significance of plot without conflict

In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.

The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

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Ask Still Eating Oranges #1

After we added the Ask function to our blog, we received several questions from curious readers. In this post, we respond to those from stilleatingoranges, stilleatingoranges, stilleatingoranges and stilleatingoranges. Let’s get to it.

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