Any examination of a text by Derrida challenges us to begin with an inquiry into its style. ''The Question of Style" was in fact the originally announced title of this essay which Derrida has since changed to Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles (Èperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche). Style is often regarded as a somewhat extraneous aspect of the philosophical enterprise; it is thought to be a variable form or container which may obstruct our comprehension of the matter or spirit of philosophical communication. Now it is well known that Derrida's whole enterprise involves a challenge to the "logocentric" tradition of philosophy according to which thought is primary and its expressions in speech or writing are thought to be secondary. On this view, whose self-evidence Derrida has indeed rendered questionable, the primacy of thought, the genuine logos, is based, first, upon its alleged ability to give us direct access to the real by means of intuition or insight; or thought may, as in the tradition from Descartes to Hegel, be regarded as itself the real whose genuine structure can be unfolded through its own activity. From these logocentric perspectives, spoken language is then regarded as a sign or indication of thought and written language as a sign of the spoken sign; writing and its characteristic effects are at a third remove from the truth, as Socrates describes art in the Republic.

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Copyright © 1981 Springer. This article first appeared in Man and World 14 (December 1981): 428-37.

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