Philosophical Notes to My Friends

Description

184 pages
Contains Bibliography
$20.00
ISBN 1-55071-084-2
DDC 190

Author

Publisher

Year

1998

Contributor

Reviewed by Daniel M. Kolos

Daniel M. Kolos is president of Benben Books, a company publishing
scholarly works.

Review

Philosophers who have thought their ideas through are few. Among those
who have, Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, stands out. It
is difficult, at first, to discern whether Philosophical Notes to My
Friends is an apology for deconstruction or a well-thought-out
presentation of the politics of interpretation among philosophers.
Closer inspection reveals Elias as a thinker who has looked at the
politics of interpretation from as many angles as possible. Therein lies
the value of his Notes. The more angles from which a problem is
examined, the less room remains for prejudice, hidden assumptions, and
vested-interest interpretations.

At stake is the use of language. Elias refers to rules by Jacques
Lacan. However, the philosophers themselves often disregard those rules.
That fact raises the question, “Who is able to understand
philosophy?” Not surprisingly, the book abounds with instances of
misunderstanding. In the past, the Dead White Males were regarded as
authorities in spite of their unspoken assumptions. Deconstruction
exposed those weaknesses and instilled a new, rigorous method of
critique and thinking. Who can reach the demands of that methodology?
There must either be a new elite able to read, think, and therefore
understand, or the entire deconstructionist quest is hampered not only
by the vested interests and established (academic) powers but also by
the questers’ inability to reach the necessary breadth of thinking.

If “deconstruction ... tries to communicate the crisis of modernity
and the difficult task of thinking and writing in a world obsessed with
speed, immediacy, information and instrumentality,” then the rapid
progress of pluralism and postmodernism presents a paradox that the
author fails to note. Moreover, Elias complains of the academic world
that opposes deconstruction by wishing to remain static or at least
conservative and generally uncooperative. Nevertheless, the
deconstructionist movement seems to have bridged the gap through the
rigors of spherical thinking—that is, looking at a problem from a
multitude of points of view in order to reach true understanding.

Citation

Elias, John., “Philosophical Notes to My Friends,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/394.