Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Deconstructs"?

Anyone catch Michael Sandel on the TODAY show? Apparently he's doing a PBS series based on his legendary Harvard course on justice. There's a trade book out now which roughly tracks his course lectures, too. Draw your own conclusions.

The blurb on the TODAY webpage is priceless:
In this excerpt, Sandel masterfully deconstructs the debate about price gouging in the wake of a hurricane.
Deconstructs! What in the world does this term mean in the vernacular?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

no debate here, we are all out of time.

there's public philosophy for you.

729 said...

Spiros, 'Deconstruction' in the vernacular means "breaking things down to basic elements." People using the term like this don't have Derrida in mind.

For example, in the culinary world, classic dishes are "deconstructed" when the basic ingredients of a classic dish are separately prepared and put together in a novel manner, but the goal is to have these elements unite and taste like the classic dish (and taste great).

RNJ said...

They're avoiding the dirty word 'analyze' (perhaps because Sandel is himself apparently incapable of it)j.

English Jerk said...

729's characterization sounds right to me, but I'd add that there's also often a hint of "exposing something's (unstated) assumptions." So it's both analysis and explication, and this latter aspect of the meaning does have some relationship with (a simplistic reading of) Derrida.

I've also heard it used as a straightforward synonym for destroy.

Neil said...

I think 729 captures one use of 'deconstructs', but even among sensible philosophers it is used in three different ways: analyses, with a view to showing that the concept is incoherent; analyses, talks about.

Paul Gowder said...

pretty much the same thing it means qua poststructuralist term of art, i.e., nothing?

Glaucon said...

Contestants on Top Chef are expected to "deconstruct" dishes. One recently said that her "classical French training" made this especially difficult, which made me chuckle...