Derrida on Condillac: Language, Writing, Imagination, Need and Desire


  • Thea Bellou Victoria University of Technology


Imagination, desire and need are concepts that traverse many domains. It is not myinten tion in this article to give an account of all of the different ways in which theseideas are con ceptualised, nor to give a genealogy of their construction. This paper seeksto exam ine the way Derrida has dealt with these ideas through his deconstruction ofCondillac and other thinkers. I will be concentrating on Derrida’s work The Archeology ofthe Frivolousbecause it is there that he analyses the interconnections between imagina -tion, need and desire and examines their relation to the problematic of language, writingand subjec tivity. As with his deconstruction of Husserl and Rousseau, Derrida uses theconcept of the sign as the entry-point from which to question and deconstruct the empir -ical and romantic conceptions of the subject and the self. He sees Condillac’s empiricismas an example of a kind of thinking that links desire to need and imagination to self-identity. By deconstructing the empirical concept of the sign, Derrida aims to questionsome of the long held assumptions about language, writing and origin. Of course, this isnot the only text in which Derrida deals with these problematics. However, what isimportant in this text is Derrida’s critique of the treatment of imagination and desirewithin certain traditions of Western thought.