Though Derrida and Wittgenstein emerged from vastly different cultural and intellectual traditions—Derrida from the French and Wittgenstein from the British—both distrust the "totalizing" concept of metaphysics. In this way, the two belong to the broad contemporary movement of analytical skepticism. Newton Garver and Seung-Chong Lee discuss this commonality, Derrida and Wittgenstein's similar view that language is the key to understanding philosophy, as well as distinguishing the differences between Derrida's style of obscure terminology, long, involved sentences, and multiple meanings, and Wittgenstein's approach to writing, which makes use of simple, familiar analogies and similes.
Looking at Derrida and Wittgenstein's place in the history of philosophy, Garver and Lee assert that while Derrida is playful and witty, this method often obscures his ideas; conversely, Wittgenstein is considered the better philosopher because of his use of naturalism to resolve the problems of Kant's version of critical philosophy. The authors explore structuralism and metaphors as linguistic devices central to the theories and criticism of both Derrida and Wittgenstein.
Working to eschew the often uncritical interpretations given to Derrida's and Wittgenstein's works, the authors seek to further a fundamental understanding of what philosophy is and of how it operates. Toward this end, they explore the role of language, grammar, and logic in relation to metaphysics within the context of Derrida and Wittgenstein's incompatible, but oddly complementary, linguistic theories.
"This is one of the better books in American Philosophy. The evaluation of Wittgenstein is the best yet by far, and the devaluation of Derrida, despite the various compliments paid him, is quite devastating. Derrida and Wittgenstein is sure to get world attention."
—Lionel Abel, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, Buffalo
"Derrida and Wittgenstein is civilized and decidedly intelligent and scrupulous. I am aware that all three epithets are usually dismissive. But I mean them as high compliments. You cannot read this book without entering into the joyful business of understanding the philosophical odyssey of the West—or learning that your best discoveries have indeed been tactually prepared for you by the unfolding text."
—Joseph Margolis, Professor of Philosophy, Temple University
"This is a fascinating and illuminating work, certain to be controversial. It brings Wittgenstein and Derrida into a common intellectual space shaped by, among other things, structuralism, Husserl, and medieval philosophy. It will be of interest to everyone concerned with Wittgenstein and Derrida, and philosophy of language generally."
—John McCumber, Professor of Philosophy and German, Northwestern University