Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language: New Book by Raoul Moati + NDPR Review

Raoul Moatiapp‘s Derrida/Searle, déconstruction et langage ordinaire is now available in English from Columbia University Press.

From the publisherRaoul Moati intervenes in the critical debate that divided two prominent philosophers in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, the British philosopher J. L. Austin advanced a theory of speech acts, or the “performative,” that Jacques Derrida and John R. Searle interpreted in fundamentally different ways. Their disagreement centered on the issue of intentionality, which Derrida understood phenomenologically and Searle read pragmatically. The controversy had profound implications for the development of contemporary philosophy, which, Moati argues, can profit greatly by returning to this classic debate. 

In this book, Moati systematically replays the historical encounter between Austin, Derrida, and Searle and the disruption that caused the lasting break between Anglo-American language philosophy and continental traditions of phenomenology and its deconstruction. The key issue, Moati argues, is not whether “intentionality,” a concept derived from Husserl’s phenomenology, can or cannot be linked to Austin’s speech-acts as defined in his groundbreaking How to Do Things with Words, but rather the emphasis Searle placed on the performativity and determined pragmatic values of Austin’s speech-acts, whereas Derrida insisted on the trace of writing behind every act of speech and the iterability of signs in different contexts.

Samuel C. Wheeler III‘s comprehensive review is available on NDPR. He begins: In the mid-1970s, something like a debate took place between Jacques Derrida and John Searle. Derrida had published an essay[1] that both appreciated and criticized J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words.[2] Searle wrote a reply,[3] which attributed to Derrida misunderstandings of basic elements of the philosophy of language. Derrida wrote a reply to Searle’s reply,[4] which did not address Searle’s view, and was derisive. Raoul Moati has written a dispassionate, careful, even-handed account of the sequence of essays and their significance . . .  

Click [here] to read the review in full.

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