Images for tired eyes 2

October 10, 2003

Like the Cambridge dons Terry Eagleton denounces ("Bin Laden sure didn't read any beer mats", THES , October 3), I have not read a book by Derrida. My reasons are twofold. The bits I have read are incoherent, silly or plain wrong. Those who claim to read his books almost always end up writing like Eagleton.

Eagleton speaks of "an oppressive civilisation", meaning presumably western capitalist democracies. Imperfect they may be, but surely less oppressive than any civilisation today or ever? Did Eagleton not reflect that civilisations organised according to doctrines he espouses have been the most oppressive in history?

His oddest assertion is of a tradition of thought, shaped among others by Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Marx, "for which (sic) human virtue means the enjoyable realisation of our individual powers".

Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas, I suspect, would have been happy to be recruited as preachers to the "me" generation, and would have questioned the claim, "if it doesn't feel good it is only dubiously virtuous".

David Parker
Honorary research fellow
Kingston University

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