Blurb for the English translation of Jesús Navarro's book on the missed encounter of Derrida and Searle (Spanish original is here; the translation will appear with John Benjamins).
Jesús Navarro’s fine book stages the non-encounter of Searle and Derrida. With impartiality, care, and precision he explains the misunderstandings and ill will that made this a missed opportunity and reinforced the “analytic / continental divide” that has plagued the professional philosophical scene for decades.
The book proceeds on two levels, a first order recapitulation of theses, and then a second order reflection on the speech acts of the encounter itself, showing that it’s not simply theoretical misunderstanding – of which there is plenty – but also conflicting political visions that beset the encounter.
First, Navarro sketches the traditions of each thinker (Wittgenstein and Austin – but of course he is shared – on the one hand, Saussure, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas on the other), and establishes the different understandings of key terms such as “intentionality,” “iterability,” and so on. He also pinpoints the difference between the “either / or” logic of Searle and the logic of impurity or contamination of Derrida (in which the condition of possibility of a term or concept is the condition of impossibility of its pure application).
Secondly, the book then, wonderfully, applies speech act theory to see how and why the encounter failed, as each side failed – or refused – to see the philosophical aims for which each side marshaled their theses and arguments: not just the theoretical aims of systematization for Searle and deconstruction for Derrida, but also the political aims of Searle’s denunciation of threats to rationality and Derrida’s denunciation of non-reflective instantiations of the “metaphysics of presence.”
The conclusion then asks what might have been, had the encounter gone otherwise; in so doing it asks whether an encounter on the terrain of “philosophy” in the singular (i.e., without regard to “analytic” and “continental” varieties) would be possible. That is, is there “philosophy” or only “philosophies”? A difficult question which we can thank Navarro for posing.