Derrida and Wikipedia

We found Derrida’s reading very hard and our discussion was dominated by questions we wished we could answer.  However, with serious back and forth discussion, we were confident in our understanding of some parts of his work. We were very fascinated by certain elements in literary deconstruction, which Derrida is credited to have pioneered. Prior to Derrida (and his contemporaries in his school of thought), western society and culture had been founded on the belief of objectivity- that the truth can somehow be found by doing an objective study.  As a literary critic, he argued that a critic should not be concerned with what the author considers essential to the text; rather, a critic should analyze a text with the intention of making meaning from his/her point of view. He insisted that truth and absolute value couldn’t be known-it is relative. His deconstruction, like other postmodernist theorists, is centered on the belief that understanding of a text is heavily dependent on the interpretation of the reader.

Having understood the concept above, we were drawn to the story published last year on the New Yorker. The story was written by Philip Roth, the author of The Human Stain, and he was complaining that a Wikipedia entry about his book had a lot of misstatements and that the entry was a “..babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all (Sept 2012, New Yorker).”

Wikipedia responded to Mr. Roth saying he was “was not a credible source.” The Wikipedia administrator who responded continued to write, “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources (Sept 2012, New Yorker).”

If Derrida were alive, I am sure he would have lauded this policy by Wikipedia.
Deconstruction has its basis on extreme skepticism. We mentioned in class how the classical schools of knowledge (ranging from the times of Greeks or during church domination) privileged metaphysical analysis. Analysis had always been mixed with or based off of different believes by the author, ideas/logos or God. Deconstructionist like Derrida believe that there is nothing outside text. In this case, whether the interpretation by the person who made the entry into Wikipedia was wrong or right is not the right question to ask. This is because, the notion of truth is relative and meaning can only be changed to fit into the various circumstances.

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