What is it about?

This article explores Jacques Derrida's attitude toward mathematics and the empirical sciences. It shows that Derrida views mathematics as an important form of language and argues that he embraces a form of empiricism that evades the tradition, metaphysical definition.

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Why is it important?

Derrida is often accused of denying the objectivity of the sciences and his treatment of mathematics has been largely ignored in the secondary literature. This paper is a rare exploration of the place of mathematics in Derrida's deconstruction. It clarifies the way he understands the relation between empiricism and metaphor, and argues that, contrary to the claims that he is 'anti-science', Derrida's project is a continuation of the displacement of metaphysics that has origins in Galilean astronomy and Darwinian biology.


This is an offshoot of my dissertation work and the ideas in this paper will hopefully one day play a role in a larger work on post-structuralism's treatment of the sciences. The way empiricism relates to metaphor is among the most difficult topics in Derrida's work and one that I hope to explore further; this is a kind of introduction to the problem.

Jeremy Butman

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This page is a summary of: Deconstructive Empiricism: Science and Metaphor in Derrida's Early Work, Derrida Today, November 2019, Edinburgh University Press, DOI: 10.3366/drt.2019.0205.
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