The Theory of Deconstruction and Munidasa Cumaratunga
Dr Ruwan M JAYATUNGE
The French philosopher Jacques Derrida questioned the fundamental
conceptual distinctions of our understanding of the World through a
close examination of the language and logic of philosophical and
Derrida laboriously worked to formulate an exceptional theory of
deconstruction since early Sixties. Deconstruction sees all writing as a
complex historical, cultural process rooted in the relations of texts to
each other. Deconstruction clarifies the instability created by the
metaphorical, meanings of words. It discloses the metaphysical
contradictions of philosophical writings.
It's a surprise to know that Munidasa Cumaratunga (1887 - 1944) a Sri
Lankan linguist and a writer who had a profound knowledge of the Sinhala
language had similar views like Derrida about the effect of the
He believed the power of language and its ability to promote creative
thinking. He observed language as the primary tool to understand the
world also considering its ambiguity. Munidasa Cumaratunga believed that
the word should represent the meaning of an object in and out. But he
knew it does not represent on most occasions and suggested alternative
Most certainly he never had any access to this poststructuralist
theory of Deconstruction. But he was a scholar who had a brilliant
He must have read Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche like Derrida
Munidasa Cumaratunga deeply analysed the effects of language to the
The Oxford English Dictionary defines deconstruction as "A strategy
of critical analysis [...] directed towards exposing unquestioned
metaphysical assumptions and internal contradictions in philosophical
and literary language.
Barbara Johnson In her book The Critical Difference (1981) clarifies
the term: "Deconstruction is not synonymous with "destruction", however.
It is in fact much closer to the original meaning of the word
'analysis' itself, which etymologically means "to undo" - a virtual
synonym for "to de-construct." ... If anything is destroyed in a
deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to unequivocal
domination of one mode of signifying over another. A deconstructive
reading is a reading which analyses the specificity of a text's critical
difference from itself."
Derrida clearly states that deconstruction is not an analysis, a
critique or a method it is not a neat set of rules that can be applied
to any text in the same way. Each deconstruction is necessarily
different. As Derrida stated Deconstruction takes place, it is an event.
Deconstruction is based on a meticulous kind of apply in reading and,
thereby, a method of criticism and mode of analytical inquiry.
Although deconstruction was sometimes used pejoratively to suggest
nihilism and frivolous scepticism Jonathan Culler Professor of English
at Cornell University gives a provocative analysis of deconstruction
considering deconstruction in terms of the questions raised by
In Deconstruction, "The entire history of the concept of structure,"
Derrida argues, "...must be thought of as a series of substitutions of
centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre."
The knowledge of 'reality cannot be achieved only via words. For
instance can we translate any experience into symbolic form? Think of a
sensation like orgasm and explain it via words. A Text cannot simply
transfer an author's ideas totally. Therefore Derrida encourages the (re)reading
of philosophical writings.
A deconstruction describes the failure of the appeal to presence
within the text what its author intended it to mean. It describes
problems in the text rather than creating them.
All texts are mediated by language and by cultural systems and
meaning is a shifting field of relations in which there is no stable
point. Reading can be different.
It can be literal reading or deconstructive reading. In
deconstructive reading a highest level of universality could be
For this reason deconstructive gives a sense closer to reality also
it helps entering into the thoughtful play of contradiction examination
of the stability and cogency of the text.
Derrida argues that all theories of knowledge are metaphysical
appeals to the full presence of truth in a given situation.