Reaching for Justice

In Derrida’s view, language operates by deferring a word to another word that attempts to explain the previous word. This is done when attempting to define a word. In class we discussed the words crime, law, and justice, and the definitions that arose all came back full circle to a word that was previously mentioned. Also some of the definitions had other words in it that needed to be defined further, thus illustrating Derrida’s view on language and how there are difficulties faced when trying to define a word. As noted in Pavlich (2011) this attempt to define words or topics leads to “deferring signs to one another in a dynamic way to produce provisional, context-specific meanings”.  This shows that although we have been taught that a definition provides a closing off of things that are different or outside of the definition, this view on deferring signs illustrates that we are constantly opening definitions as we are constantly referring to other concepts. Derrida aims to take definitions that have been fixed and open them up – although he would argue that these definitions are not in fact fixed.

Derrida has coined the term ‘differance’ which suggests “how the process of deferring to other terms actually creates meaning, being and presence” (Pavlich, 2011). According to Derrida, these entities are never fixed – they are always becoming.  Differance is distinguished from deconstruction as it does not destroy rather it reorganizes concepts. In Derrida’s view “deconstruction is never a finite being predetermined for once and for all [as it is] … without end and never rests” (Pavlich, 2011).

When it comes to the question of law and the application of Derrida’s work he touches on Benjamin’s work as he states that “law is ultimately arbitrary because the instituting, founding, and justifying moment of law’ is a performative force” (Pavlich, 2011). This means that the force is the result of it actually being carried out. Derrida believes you will never be able to get at justice rather it is about the pursuit. Through law is where the rise to ideas occurs in respect to whether or not justice or injustice has in fact occurred.

I agree with Derrida’s view on deconstruction is justice. He believes that destruction and justice are both about looking forward. Justice is always deferred and deconstruction is constantly ongoing. I believe this is on point with our legal system in several ways. As we discussed in class when a lawyer is interrogating the accused, he attempts to undermine the accuseds argument – which Derrida would claim to be deconstruction, and this deconstruction gives rise to justice or injustice. In terms of his three paradoxes I strongly agree with them as well. The first ‘judicial decisions are both rule conforming and rule extending’ is what came into my mind as soon as I started reading the chapter. Judges do not simply apply and follow rules they also simultaneously make new rules as they go, depending on certain characteristics or circumstances of the case.  Secondly, the purpose of applying these rules is to pursue justice. Thirdly, you can never find justice in the present it is something that one is reaching for. I believe this third point is very critical in the sense that the law is constantly evolving and changing as new laws are set forth, and amendments are made to prior laws. This is the clearest example for me when interpreting Derrida. According to the specific time, or norms within a community, country or nation, laws on what are socially acceptable versus what are not, changes from time to time. This gives rise to new laws and thus it would be difficult to prescribe one solid definition to specific words.

I conceive Derrida’s views on deconstruction, although confusing at first, are a great way to examine concepts and become a more critical thinker. We’ve been taught from childhood onwards that there is a right and a wrong answer to a certain word within its definition, however, Derrida would believe that there is more to a simple definition, and opens it up further in an attempt to reach for justice. I believe this is fascinating as the law doesn’t stop and it is constantly evolving, therefore why should individuals find simple definitions, and provide simple yes or no answers, when there is much more examining and exploring to do.

References

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford

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1 Comment

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One response to “Reaching for Justice

  1. This phrasing:

    “This shows that although we have been taught that a definition provides a closing off of things that are different or outside of the definition, this view on deferring signs illustrates that we are constantly opening definitions as we are constantly referring to other concepts. Derrida aims to take definitions that have been fixed and open them up – although he would argue that these definitions are not in fact fixed.”

    is excellent. It explains some important features of Derrida’s ‘grammatology’.

    Good discussion of the relationships between law, justice, and deconstruction.