Deconstruction literally should mean "destroying something" or "tearing something apart" or something like that—something that is opposite to "construction". Why he has chosen this term for his text analysis approach? Seems to me that his approach could be called "language inadequacy and reader's importance", or something like that. I mean, you never get to that meaning from "deconstruction".

Is there an explanation?

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    Yes, "opposite to construction" is an accurate reading of Derrida. "Tearing something apart" is precisely what you are doing as a deconstructionist, wading through the multiple layers of possible interpretation and alternative meanings. Your description ("language inadequacy and reader's importance") is quite the same as deconstruction. You have to deconstruct to figure out what those things are, or realize that they exist at all. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 4:09
  • It is also deconstruction in a "mechanical" sense: taking a given (literary, critical, political) "machine" -- for instance: critique, words/writing, forgiveness, aporia, terror, etc.; just to name a few -- and finding out through a cautious "disassembly" how it works.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 0:12
  • Thus, and based on @Michael's answer, I think we can use "decomposition" also as a synonym for what Derrida had in mind. Thanks :) Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 7:00

2 Answers 2


Derrida attempted to answer this question in his Letter to a Japanese Friend. I don't think you're going to find a better explanation as to his intentions than the one found there.

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    Nice find; I had no idea that had been published on the Web. This is probably the most succinct explanation of Derrida's thought that I know of. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 4:10
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    Link is no longer reachable.
    – mike
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 9:37

Wikipedia's article on deconstruction seems to cover this quite well.

Though Derrida supposedly intentionally did not try to pin down a specific meaning to the term, it comes down to something like 'a very rigorous analysis', which can metaphorically feel like pulling things apart radically.

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