Derrida, radical doyen of deconstructionist thought, dies at 74

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The Independent Online

Jacques Derrida, the world-renowned thinker and a founder of the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died, the French President's office said yesterday. He was 74.

Jacques Derrida, the world-renowned thinker and a founder of the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died, the French President's office said yesterday. He was 74.

Derrida, who taught on both sides of the Atlantic, and whose works were translated around the world, died of pancreatic cancer at a hospital in Paris.

President Jacques Chirac said: "With him, France has given the world one of its greatest contemporary philo-sophers, one of the major figures of intellectual life of our time."

Provocative and as difficult to define as his favourite subject - deconstruction - Derrida was born in 1930 into a Jewish family in Algeria. He moved to Paris in 1949 and went on to write hundreds of books, including Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology and Margins of Philosophy. He taught philosophy at the Sorbonne from 1960-64, and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales until 1999. He also taught in the United States, at the University of California at Irvine, among other schools. Derrida was best known as a father of deconstructionism, a mode of analysis developed in the 1960s and applied to literature, linguistics, law and architecture.

He focused on language, showing it has multiple layers, thus multiple meanings or ways of being interpreted. This challenged the notion that speech is a direct form of communication, or even that the author of a text is the author of its meaning.

Sir Frank Kermode, former Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University, said: "There were people who ran their lives according to the principles of Derrida. It was a very big movement. It was so radical, it naturally excited people."

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