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Deconstructionism

A term tied very closely to postmodernism, deconstructionism is a challenge to the attempt to establish any ultimate or secure meaning in a text. Basing itself in language analysis, it seeks to "deconstruct" the ideological biases (gender, racial, economic, political, cultural) and traditional assumptions that infect all histories, as well as philosophical and religious "truths." Deconstructionism is based on the premise that much of human history, in trying to understand, and then define, reality has led to various forms of domination - of nature, of people of color, of the poor, of homosexuals, etc. Like postmodernism, deconstructionism finds concrete experience more valid than abstract ideas and, therefore, refutes any attempts to produce a history, or a truth. In other words, the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily bring knowledge down to the local and specific level, and challenge the tendency to centralize power through the claims of an ultimate truth which must be accepted or obeyed by all.

A technique of literary analysis that regards meaning as resulting from the differences between words themselves, rather than their reference to the things they stand for. It is a technique that entered theology in the earlier 1980’s as theologians who had been educated in Hegel, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Heidegger began to encounter the writings of French theorists, in particular, Jacques Derrida. They emphasised the inability of theological discourse to speak substantively about dogmatic, transcendental certainties. For them, after Hegel, God had been poured into Jesus Christ without remainder and so they believed theology should be expunged of any claims on metaphysics and focus on the sensible realm.

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Philosophy

Contributed by: CTNS and Richard P Whaite

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