By Jacques Derrida
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Extra resources for Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas
A precursor of the alchemist’s “homunculus” (a human figure made from base matter) and the various Frankenstein creatures of folk culture, the golem was a quasi-animate man-made creature: an attempt by man to imitate the act of divine creation. One such golem was the infamous Golem of Prague. In 1580, so the legend goes, a rumour began to spread that a priest called Taddeush was about to accuse the Jews of Prague of a blood libel: the antiSemitic charge that the blood of a Christian child was used in the Passover seder.
In “Signature Event Context” Derrida uses the term “iterability” to account for the temporal deferral and possibility of repetition at the heart of all meaningful experience. All forms of communication are determined by their context. ” Its meaning when uttered in a drama theatre would be very different to its meaning when uttered during the course of an illtempered football match. According to the classical conception of communication, however, the possibility of potential misunderstanding can be avoided by paying attention to the determinate context in which the statement is uttered.
Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic 33 T H E P H I LO S O P H Y O F D E R R I DA differences that have issued from the system. The idea or phonic substance that a sign contains is of less importance than the other signs that surround it. (Saussure 1959: 117–18, 120; quoted in M: 10–11) Saussure’s influence is considerable. First, he problematizes the distinction and hierarchy between the sensible and the intelligible (which is just another version of the presence–absence, life–death distinction) and, secondly, he argues that the identity of any unit of meaning is an effect of differential relations.