Logocentrism is, to put it simply, a term describing a particular sense of the relationship between thought, speech, and writing. But no term about a relationship so complex will be itself simple, and so this is a dense one. It may be helpful, then, to start at the beginning. In their use, it was generally employed to describe thinkers preferring speech to writing as communicative technologies.

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It holds the logos as epistemologically superior and that there is an original, irreducible object which the logos represent. According to logocentrism, the logos is the ideal representation of the Platonic ideal. With the logos as the site of a representational unity, linguistics dissects the structure of the logos further and establishes the sound of the word, coupled with the sense of the word, as the original and ideal location of metaphysical significance.

Logocentric linguistics proposes that "the immediate and privileged unity which founds significance and the acts of language is the articulated unity of sound and sense within the phonic. It follows, therefore, that speech is the primary form of language and that writing is secondary, representative, and, importantly, outside of speech. Writing is a "sign of a sign" [3] and, therefore, is basically phonetic.

This notion that the written word is a sign of a sign has a long history in Western thought. According to Aristotle BC — BC , "Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Ferdinand de Saussure — follows this logocentric line of thought in the development of his linguistic sign and its terminology. Where the word remains known as the whole sign, the unification of concept and sound-image becomes the unification of the signified and the signifier respectively.

According to Saussure in his Course in General Linguistics , "The linguistic object is not defined by the combination of the written word and the spoken word: the spoken form alone constitutes the object. French philosopher Jacques Derrida — in his book Of Grammatology responds in depth to what he believes is Saussure's logocentric argument.

Derrida deconstructs the apparent inner, phonological system of language, stating in Chapter 2, Linguistics and Grammatology , that in fact and for reasons of essence Saussure's representative determination is " That the signified is originarily and essentially and not only for a finite and created spirit trace, that it is always already in the position of the signifier, is the apparently innocent proposition within which the metaphysics of the logos, of presence and consciousness, must reflect upon writing as its death and its resource.

Inherent in Saussure's reasoning, a structuralist approach to literature began in the s [13] to assess the literary text, or utterance, in terms of its adherence to certain organising conventions which might establish its objective meaning.

Again, as for Saussure, structuralism in literary theory is condemned to fail on account of its own foundation: ' Meaning is always attributed to the object or idea by the human mind, and constructed by and expressed through language: it is not already contained within the thing'.

There is, therefore, no absolute truth outside of construction no matter how scientific or prolific that construction might be. Enter Derrida and post-structuralism. Other like-minded philosophers and psychoanalysts in the vein of post-structuralism include Nietzsche , Heidegger and Freud.

For the post-structuralist the writer must be present in a kind of absence, or 'dead', according to Barthes; just as the reader is absent in a kind of presence at the 'moment' of the literary utterance. Post-structuralism is therefore against the moral formalism of the Western literary tradition which maintains only The Greats should be looked to for literary inspiration and indeed for a means of political control and social equilibrium.

Modernism, with its desire to regain some kind of lost presence, also resists post-structuralist thought; whereas Post-modernism accepts the loss the loss of being as 'presence' and steps beyond the limitations of logocentrism.

Some researchers consider that logocentrism may not be something which exists across all cultures, but instead has a particular bias in Western culture. Tedlock writes, "The voice is linear, in [Derrida's] view; there is only one thing happening at a time, a sequence of phonemes," [17] and this is reflected in writing and even the study of language in the field of linguistics and what Tedlock calls "mythologics or larger-scale structuralism ", [18] "are founded not upon a multidimensional apprehension of the multidimensional voice, but upon unilinear writing of the smallest-scale articulations within the voice.

Geaney, [20] in writing about ming names in early Chinese reveals that ideographic writing systems present some difficulty for the idea of logocentrism, and that even Derrida wrote of Chinese writing in an ambivalent way, assuming firstly that "writing has a historical telos in which phonetic writing is the normal 'outcome'", [21] but also "speculat[ing] without irony about Chinese writing as a 'movement of civilization outside all logocentrism'".

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Jacques Derrida (1930—2004)

Deconstruction is a strategy of critical questioning directed towards exposing unquestionable metaphysical assumptions and internal contradictions in philosophical and literary language. Deconstruction often involves a way of reading that concerns itself with decentering—with unmasking the problematic nature of all centers. Further deconstruction is a form of textual practice derived from Derrida, which aims to demonstrate the inherent insatiability of both language and meaning. Binary Oppositions.


3. Some Key Terms

Jacques Derrida was an Algerian-born French philosopher who made important contributions to the philosophy of language, aesthetics, and phenomenology. Of Grammatology is an examination of the relation between speech and writing and of the ways in which speech and writing develop as forms of language. According to Derrida, writing has often been considered to be derived from speech, and this attitude toward the relation of speech and writing has been reflected in many philosophic and scientific investigations of the origin of language. However, the tendency to consider writing as an expression of speech has led to the assumption that speech is closer than writing to the truth or logos of meaning and representation. Derrida argues that the development of language actually occurs through an interplay between speech and writing, and that because of this interplay, neither speech nor writing may properly be described as being more important to the development of language.

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