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SAAP Annual Meeting 2018

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Reflections on Peirce and Derrida

My paper compares and contrasts Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive post-structuralist semiotics to Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotics. Whereas Derrida was stridently anti-empirical, Peirce was an empiricist. My paper will engage Derrida at the only place he addresses Peirce at any length. We will find that Derrida is very positive in his comments. However, he astutely avoids the consequences of the following claim: Peirce goes very far in the direction that I have called the de-construction of the transcendental signified, which, at one time or another, would place a reassuring end to the reference from sign to sign. I have identified logocentrism and the metaphysics of presence as the exigent, powerful, systematic, and irrepressible desire for a signified. (49) My paper argues we can read Peirce as an empirical post-structuralist and that rather than something transcendental a priori, Derrida’s différance is simply a reified instance of what Peirce calls hypostatic abstraction.

Jim Garrison
Virginia Tech
United States


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