On Parasitic Language

Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 39:43-48 (2008)
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This paper is about the uses of language which the Oxford philosopher of language, J.L. Austin excluded from theoretical consideration in his William James Lectures delivered in 1955 and posthumously published as How to Do Things with Words. Uses of language, such as dramatic, poetic or comedic, are said by Austin to be non-serious, deviant and parasitic upon the everyday normal ordinary language. This leaves literature out of consideration as an etiolation. Derrida, who is not merely a trained philosopher but also one of the finest literary critics of our day, fails to agree with Austin. In his “Signature, Event, Context”, and Limited Inc, he criticizes Austin of “totalization” and “idealization” of the norm or the standard; his inability to see that the parasitic is necessarily inbuilt in the standard. This paper is an attempt at seeing how far Derrida is justified in his critique as there is much that is common between his and Austin’s approaches towards language.



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