Deriding Derrida

February 7, 1997

In his review of Derrida for Beginners (THES, January 31) Roy Harris betrays the effects of not taking continental philosophy seriously.

He equates French academic criticism of Derrida with complaints at Cambridge on the occasion of the honorary degree controversy. I do not know what a critical hermeneutic understanding of the French scene would reveal but hostility at Cambridge had little to do with Derrida's work.

I remember taking sherry in a room with six college fellows all of whom had voted against the conferment of a degree on the French philosopher. Not one of them had read a word of his work. They had all voted on political grounds of one kind or another involving intra-university relations. Perhaps Professor Harris cannot be expected to know much about Cambridge politics but he might do well to look further and with greater sympathy into the hermeneutics of suspicion.

Anthony Beck

London SW6

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