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Logocentrism, associated with French philosopher Jacques Derrida, refers to western philosophy’s partiality for order manifested in an idealization of truth, a prejudice for speaking over writing and binary oppositions.
Logos, Greek for law, word and reason, has from Heraclitus (d. after 480 BC) to the Stoics (ca. 300 BC) underpinned cosmic stability – organizing providence and fate. In Christian theology Jesus is logos embodied and for some logos persists in science s laws of nature. Logocentrism emerges with Carus and Bachofen’s nineteenth-century aesthetics but was subsequently adopted by German philosopher Klages, denoting a priority given to mind over unified body and soul.
Derrida, through Heidegger, sees logocentrism emanating from a philosophy that equates being with substance for an autonomous agent infused with an instrumental view of nature. Spoken language s immediacy is taken as more expressive of mind, and hence truth, than derivative text. Logocentrism is phonocentrism; privileging the spoken word over writing generates sets of binary oppositions (cause/effect, black/white, good/evil). Turning to the author for unequivocal meaning represents the logocentric reach for a solid centre.
Logocentrism permeates sociological concerns for gender and justice. Cixous (1975) “The laugh of Medusa” illustrated how logocentrism aims to justify male rationale; logocentrism is phallogocentrism. Meanwhile, Young s (1990) Justice and Politics of Difference argues that logocentrism overlooks and excludes plurality. Searle (1983) in ”The world turned upside down views logocentrism as ”a series of muddles and gimmicks that imagines an incoherent threat to science, language, and common sense. Nevertheless, Rorty’s separation of a more defensible narrow (anti-foundationalism) logocentrism from a wider version (condemnation of all manners of speaking) is helpful.
- Derrida, J. (1976) Of Grammatology. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
- Rorty, R. (1991) Essays on Heidegger and others. Cambridge University Press, London.