Aporia (ah-por-EE-ah)- a moment of undecidability; the inherent contradictions found in any text. Derrida, for example, cites the inherent contradictions at work in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s use of the words culture and nature by demonstrating that Rousseau’s sense of the self’s innocence (in nature) is already corrupted by the concept of culture (and existence) and vice-versa.
Différance – a combination of the meanings in the word différance. The concept means 1) différer or to differ, 2) différance which means to delay or postpone (defer), and 3) the idea of difference itself. To oversimplify, words are always at a distance from what they signify and, to make matters worse, must be described by using other words.
Erasure (sous rature) – to highlight suspect ideologies, notions linked to the metaphysics of presence, Derrida put them under “erasure,” metaphorically pointing out the absence of any definitive meaning. By using erasure, however, Derrida realized that a “trace” will always remain but that these traces do not indicate the marks themselves but rather the absence of the marks (which emphasize the absence of “univocal meaning, truth, or origin”). In contrast, when Heidegger similarly “crossed out” words, he assumed that meaning would be (eventually) recoverable.
Logocentrism – term associated with Derrida that “refers to the nature of western thought, language and culture since Plato’s era. The Greek signifier for “word,” “speech,” and “reason,” logos possesses connotations in western culture for law and truth. Hence, logocentrism refers to a culture that revolves around a central set of supposedly universal principles or beliefs” (Wolfreys 302 – see General Resources below).
Metaphysics of Presence – “beliefs including binary oppositions, logocentrism, and phonocentrism that have been the basis of Western philosophy since Plato” (Dobie 155, see General Resources below).
Supplement – “According to Derrida, Western thinking is characterized by the ‘logic of supplementation’, which is actually two apparently contradictory ideas. From one perspective, a supplement serves to enhance the presence of something which is already complete and self-sufficient. Thus, writing is the supplement of speech, Eve was the supplement of Adam, and masturbation is the supplement of ‘natural sex’….But simultaneously, according to Derrida, the Western idea of the supplement has within it the idea that a thing that has a supplement cannot be truly ‘complete in itself’. If it were complete without the supplement, it shouldn’t need, or long-for, the supplement. The fact that a thing can be added-to to make it even more ‘present’ or ‘whole’ means that there is a hole (which Derrida called an originary lack) and the supplement can fill that hole. The metaphorical opening of this “hole” Derrida called invagination. From this perspective, the supplement does not enhance something’s presence, but rather underscores its absence” (from Wikipedia – definition of supplement).
Trace – from Lois Tyson (see General Resources below): “Meaning seems to reside in words (or in things) only when we distinguish their difference from other words (or things). For example, if we believed that all objects were the same color, we wouldn’t need the word red (or blue or green) at all. Red is red only because we believe it to be different from blue and green (and because we believe color to be different from shape). So the word red carries with it the trace of all the signifiers it is not (for it is in contrast to other signifiers that we define it)” (245). Tyson’s explanation helps explain what Derrida means when he states “the trace itself does not exist.”
Transcendental Signifier – from Charles Bressler (see General Resources below): a term introduced by Derrida who “asserts that from the time of Plato to the present, Western culture has been founded on a classic, fundamental error: the searching for a transcendental signified, an external point of reference on which one may build a concept or philosophy. Once found, this transcendental signified would provide ultimate meaning. It would guarantee a ‘center’ of meaning….”