The philosophy that I’m really interested in at this time in my life is deconstruction and that is because I’m deconstructing from the things I grew up being taught to believe. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It is kind of a taboo word in christianity in america right now because people have a misconception about what deconstruction is about.
Some people think deconstruction is about being woke and sexy and cool. They think it is about using new words and yeeting (that means throwing away) everything that you just don’t like so that you can justify doing whatever you want to do. They think it is about trying to fit into what they think is the latest social fad in order to fit in with the norm. But they could not be more wrong.
Deconstruction is this philosophical approach to understanding what a piece of writing, a teaching, or a speaker (living or especially dead, because their words can be recalled and shared forever) really means, what their intent and message is or was and it isn’t limited to deconstructing a religious faith or belief system because it applies to logical and systematic approach to all the words that have been written down.
Language has changed a lot over time. Even in speaking english, it is challenging to understand renaissance writers and what they were saying without translating it to another language. It isn’t just about realizing that the dictionary definition of words changes over time, it is also in understanding the different connotations a single word can have at different times in history as well as understanding that the message may use words with a connotation or definition that is known. To understand the true message, we have to understand how the words were understood then, which is not always so easy. But that the understanding of the words is not enough because society changes just as much as words do.
It is only in the last several hundred years or so that scientific understanding has grown from believing witchcraft was behind sicknesses spreading through a city and causing so many people to die to understanding that disease comes from unclean drinking water and unclean food, from not having healthy hygiene, and from viruses and bacteria. It is only in the last hundred years that we got widespread vaccination and antibiotics that keep people from dying as they used to in the past. It is in the last half a century that we started exploring space and now we all have a computer in our pocket or backpack. When we try to understand what someone was saying, we also have to try to understand the world how they did because they didn’t have access to the information we do and the facts we do.
But deconstruction is still more than that because the truth is that ideas that we understand the world through are also changing and difficult to completely define so to be able to understand what someone once long ago thought or believed, you have to try to understand the ideas that were very different than what we are still not agreeing on today, like understanding what is true, just, moral, and good.
And at the very heart of deconstruction is the difficulty of seeing something in its truth of what the language of the day meant and what it means now, what it meant in society then and what it means now, what ideas were present and how were they reflected then and what those ideas mean now because even when justice meant something then that is absurd by our thinking now, it doesn’t mean that justice isn’t the point, it means justice is even when it looks different.
Deconstruction does not mean that any one of us will know it all or will come to a final and clear understanding, it means that we won’t, that we need to always be growing our understanding and growing as people because sometimes we can’t even know ourself.