Deconstruction and Différance: Onto-Return and Emergence in A Daoist Interpretation of Derrida


CHUNG-YING CHENG, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Visiting Zhiyuan Chair Professor, College of Humanities and Arts, Shanghai Jiaotong University. Specialties: Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, hermeneutics/ onto-hermeneutics, philosophy of language. E-mail:


In inquiring into the nature of deconstruction in Derrida we see that it hides an opposite aspect of onto-generative emergence as stated in the wording of the Yijing. What is hidden is the movement of difference-making and generalizing repetition by way of certain presupposed reality. In examining Derrida's notion “différance” (difference), his contrast between an ontology of presence and a philosophy of absence, in explaining the origin of meaning à la de Saussure, has transformed into the polaristic structure of all differences, whether it be in language or in things. The Saussurian distinction between the signifier and the signified no doubt reflects this polarity but not reveals an underlying transcendent-immanent principle called “différance,” or, the dao 道 in Chinese philosophy. This “difference” in language leads to ramification of meanings which could be self-deconstructive such as the extended use of the word “spirit” demonstrates.