Misunderstanding Derrida and Postmodernism: Ken Wilber and “Post-Metaphysics” Integral Spirituality Gregory Desilet
Wilber's reading is a bad misreading. In fact, it is a misreading that twists what Derrida says into its opposite. The possibility for such a misreading serves only to reinforce Derrida's claim that language can never guarantee a particular understanding. (And, consistent with this claim, the reader should remain alert to the possibility that the reading I propose as an alternative to Wilber's offers no guarantee of transparency with Derrida's text. Nevertheless, it is a reading that recommends itself because it does not require believing Derrida abdicated his entire project in one sentence, as Wilber too easily assumes). Wilber's misunderstanding—and the potential for that misunderstanding—verify that a problematic difference between signifier and signified is always in operation and insures that interpretation is little more than a species of translation. This interpretive “translation” always accomplishes transformations—and thereby potential misreadings—not only between languages but within the same language.
Wilber's misreading betrays his strong attachment to belief in a particular tradition of absolute transcendence while confirming the intimate connection between this belief and the metaphysics underlying notions of transcendence implicit in the transcendental signifier/signified. In the wake of Derrida's broad deconstruction of metaphysics, any metaphysical position that explicitly or implicitly provides a substantial role for forms of absolute transcendence is a metaphysics that necessarily resurrects all the problems and dead-ends of traditional metaphysics that postmodern philosophers have labored to escape.
Gregory Desilet is author of various writings on language and culture, such as Cult of the Kill: Traditional Metaphysics of Rhetoric, Truth, and Violence in a Postmodern World and Our Faith in Evil: Melodrama and the Effects of Entertainment Violence. See also: www.gregorydesilet.com, which hosts an eulogy for Derrida. In this essay for Integral World Desilet questions Wilber's understanding of Derrida. integralworld