Derrida (was Re: the emperor's new clothes)

Danny Yee (danny@MORIA.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Thu, 7 Apr 1994 22:56:53 +1000

> C. Pound is quite mistaken to believe that appreciation of clarity
> indicates a lack of pleasure in reading and writing. I enjoy both
> activities. The most pleasurable sentence to read or write is a clear
> one. Clarity has the beauty of crystal. Clarity shares
> the immortality of a mathematical equation. Postmodern so-called
> "writers" deride clarity because it exposes their intellectual
> bankruptcy, and because their "work" is hypocritical faddism.

Hear! Hear!

I'd just like to use this an excuse to get in a comment on the single
worst example of this I have seen. I tried to read some Derrida once -
an English translation of the essay "Differance". I put an immense
amount of time into trying to understand it, but could make no progress.
My conclusion was that it says nothing at all and has absolutely no
empirical content.

Of course you will all have explanations for my failure to understand:

a) I don't have the background. This is possible, but it didn't feel like
any amount of additional information would make sense of it. I don't
think there is *any* way of interpreting him that makes any sense.

b) I'm not good enough at manipulating abstract ideas. This is possible,
but I can follow extremely abstruse mathematics without faltering, so it
seems unlikely.

c) I live in a different universe to Derrida and followers. This may be
true, but if our universes are so completely incommensurable then there's
not much I can do about it.

At any rate, life is too short. I have no intention of ever bothering with
Derrida again. Indeed I now use his name as a way of weeding my reading
material - if a paper quotes him approvingly I'm not interested in the

Clarity! Conciseness! Elegance!

Danny Yee (