I watched the documentary (?) Derrida (2002) today. I am not a philosopher, nor do I spend a lot of time reading philosophy, but I find this man to have been a fascinating figure. He is confusing at times; he is enlightening at times. I think that was his aim.
In the film there are several places where you go to appreciate Derrida. At one juncture he lectures his interviewer on the artificial nature of interviews and documentaries. Later in the film he asks how they will choose from all the footage to create a hour long film. His point? Do not confuse the filmed, cut, clipped, and organized with actual events.
For all of us who watch the news this is a helpful reminder. No one reports “just the facts,” but all tell us a story with bias. It is what it is.
At another place he is asked to explain “deconstruction” and he does far better job through speech than through writing (in my opinion). Plain and simple: Do not assume to be natural that which is not natural or do not assume to be natural that which has been dictated by culture, or institutions, or historical norms. This is important to remember when we discuss race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and more. We don’t have to affirm or deny everything Derrida affirmed and denied, but neither must we live life without a critical lens.
The interviewer told Derrida that some have compared his thought to the American sitcom “Seinfeld,” which I have heard Christian thinkers do. He was unfamiliar with the show. He responded that if someone thinks his philosophy is like a sitcom they should stop watching sitcoms and try reading his work to understand it. Touche!
When asked to explore “love” he rebuked his interviewer telling her that she cannot ask about something as vague as “love,” so he request that she ask something more specific. She asks why “love” has matter to so many philosophers. He moves the question to something more specific saying that philosophy asks whether we love “someone” or “some thing.” In other words, do you love your spouse or do you love characteristics about your spouse. Can you love someone intrinsically for who they are? If aspects of who they are change do you continue to love them? Good questions worth asking and far more interested than vague clichés about “love,” something Derrida sought to avoid.
All in all the film is worth watching. It is a documentary, kind of. It is an interview, kind of. It is a film that makes you stop and think on several occasions, definitely!