Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 9, No 1 (2013)

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Iteration and Truth: A Fifth "Orientation of Thought"

Hannu Poutiainen


This article offers a novel interpretation of Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive thought in terms of model theory. Taking its cue from Paul Livingston’s Politics of Logic, which interprets Derrida as a thinker of inconsistent totalities, the article argues that Livingston’s description of Derrida is unable to accommodate certain consistency-driven aspects of Derrida’s work. These aspects pertain to Derrida’s notion of ”iterability”. The article demonstrates that the context-bound nature of iteration – the altering repetition of any discrete unit of meaning – and Derrida’s possibilist view of context – that a context need not be part of the actual world to merit consideration – lead to the possibility of articulating iteration with the model-theoretical notion of truth. In model theory, truth is a relation between a sentence and the class of models in which the sentence is true. Arguing that the same holds for Derrida’s iterations and contexts, the article, in presenting the first rigorous truth-definition internal to deconstructive thought, outlines a ”fifth orientation of thought” alongside the four orientations listed in Livingston’s book: if, according to Livingston, one can relate the whole of being to the whole of thought in one of four different ways, the aspects of Derrida’s work that do not fall within this schema call out for another possible orientation.

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