This guest column marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Jacques Derrida. The journal in which it appears, Common Knowledge, was not especially receptive to deconstruction during Derrida's lifetime, but Lesley Chamberlain in retrospect sees reasons to reconsider his role in intellectual history now. The delicacy of Derrida's mission, she argues, has been misunderstood. He is best placed in the company not of the “deconstructionists” who thought to follow in his footsteps but, rather, in the company of the moralistic and theologically minded German philosophers and thinkers who inspired him, from Kant and Hegel to Heidegger and Walter Benjamin. A personal fear of being pinned down, coupled with his tragic Jewish witness to a philosophical quest for certainty gone astray, led the “Sad Rider,” one of many possible Derridas, to want to “erase” as much as he wanted to write — despite which, he was not spared being turned into an industry.

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