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Book Review

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Wittgenstein and Derrida, the subjects of Henry Staten's important new book, have met before in contemporary literary theory, usually, however, as enemies or at least as philosophers with antithetical approaches to language. In several articles and at greater length in Act and Quality (1981), Charles Altieri, for example, has found in Wittgenstein a powerful challenge to Derridean literary theory, while Christopher Norris in The Deconstructive Turn (1983) has argued that Wittgenstein's writings are infected with the skeptical doubts that they supposedly cure. Unlike these critics, Staten proposes allying Wittgenstein with Derrida, an effort that depends on contesting what I would call, following Staten, the "communitarian" or "therapeutic" reading of Wittgenstein and the "terrorist" or "nihilist" reading of Derrida. While Staten complicates these familiar readings, he does not bring about the realignment that he seeks. Even after his painstaking work, the Derridean notions that he grafts onto Wittgenstein still seem out of place.

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Philosophy and Literature