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Revolution of the OrdinaryLiterary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell$
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Toril Moi

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226464305

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226464589.001.0001

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Wittgenstein and Deconstruction

(p.64) 3 Concepts
Revolution of the Ordinary

Toril Moi

University of Chicago Press

Through an analysis of Derrida’s “Signature Event Context” alongside Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations the chapter compares Wittgenstein and Derrida’s understanding of concepts and theory, and brings out the profound difference in spirit between the two philosophical traditions. Drawing on Cavell, the chapter shows why Derrida misreads Austin. It discusses Austin’s “context” in relation to Derrida’s and Culler’s “general text.” At stake is a different attitude towards the ordinary, and towards the very idea of what philosophy (or theory) is and what it can do. Derrida’s quest for a general theory, for “ideal” (albeit deconstructive) philosophical concepts, differs profoundly from Wittgenstein’s trust in the powers of ordinary words, and his commitment to examples as opposed to essences. Through an analysis of the deconstructionist Jonathan Culler’s understanding of “theory,” and his rejection of any concept of “ground” of language-games, the chapter brings out the skepticism of the theorist’s “craving for generality.” It also shows that the very picture of a “ground of language” -- whether it is asserted or denied -- makes no sense to ordinary language philosophy. (It is the "wrong picture.")

Keywords:   Jonathan Culler, Jacques Derrida, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stanley Cavell, J. L. Austin, skepticism, craving for generality, concepts, theory, deconstruction

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