Prof. Hans Georg Gadamer died on 13 March last year. The University of Heidelberg and the Heidelberg Academy of Science will be honouring the memory of the great philosopher with an academic commemoration ceremony on 15 February at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the New University (Grabengasse 3, 69117 Heidelberg). The motto of the ceremony is "Hans Georg Gadamer and 20th Century Philosophy". The University and the Academy extend a very cordial invitation to the general public to attend this celebration. There will be a live video transmission of the event to lecture halls 13 and 14.
Following the introductory music, words of welcome will be spoken by the Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Peter Hommelhoff, and the President of the Academy of Science, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Gisbert Freiherr zu Putlitz. After an address by Erwin Teufel, Minister-President of the State of Baden-Württemberg, Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Bübner of Heidelberg University's Department of Philosophy will outline the achievements of the guest speaker, Prof. Jacques Derrida. The subject of Prof. Derrida's lecture in honour of Hans Georg Gadamer is "Le dialogue ininterrompu: entre deux infinis, le poème" (a German translation will be available). Derrida's own philosophy draws on Gadamer and Heidegger for its decisive inspiration. Derrida has recently acknowledged the seminal debt his thinking owes to philosophical hermeneutics.
Jacques Derrida was born in 1930 in El-Biar, near Algiers. On his first day at secondary school in 1942, he was sent home because the headmaster had lowered the admission restrictions for Jews from 14% to 7%. Returning later to the Lycée Ben Aknoun, Derrida dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player. In June 1947 he failed his baccalauréat. At the time he was already an avid reader of Rousseau, Gide, Nietzsche, Valéry and Camus and published poems in a small North African newspaper.
In 1947/8 Derrida attended the philosophy class at the Lycée Gauthier in Algiers. His philosophical inclinations were confirmed in 1948/9 by the acquaintance with the works of Kierkegaard and Heidegger. His first visit to France followed the year after, when he enrolled as a boarding student at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. He attended the Ecole normale supérieure from 1952 to 1954, a period that marked the beginning of his friendship with Louis Althusser and his first encounter with Marguerite Aucouturier, whom he later married. At this time Derrida was intermittently active in non-communist groups of the extreme left. He attended lectures by Foucault, with whom he was soon on friendly terms.
In 1956/7 he passed the oral portion of the agrégation (at the second attempt) and received a study grant for Harvard University as special auditor. In June 1957 he married Marguerite Aucouturier in Boston. During his military service as a second-class soldier, he taught French and English to the children of soldiers in the Algerian war of independence. Various meetings with Bourdieu.
In 1959/60 Derrida returned to France and took up his first post as a teacher at the lycée in Le Mans. From 1960 to 1964 he taught "General Philosophy and Logic" at the Sorbonne, as an assistant to S. Bachelard, G. Canguilhem, P. Ricoeur and J. Wahl. His first lecture at the Collège de France (on Foucault, who was present) was followed by initial publications in Critique and Tel Quel.
In 1966 he attended a major conference at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, which marked a spectacular upsurge of American interest in the works of French philosophers and theorists. At the colloquium he met Paul de Man and Jacques Lacan. 1967 saw the publication of Derrida's first major works: De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology, Engl. 1974) and La voix de la phénomène. Introduction au problème du signe dans la phénomenologie de Husserl (Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Phenomenology, Engl. 1973). Subsequently, his international renown was enhanced by election to various academies, awards such as the Nietzsche Prize (1988) and a number of honorary doctorates (Columbia, Essex, Louvain, New School of Social Research, Williams College). In France, however, he was increasingly debarred from academic life.
Derrida affected an apparently reserved attitude towards certain aspects of the May 1968 student revolution. In July 1968 he was invited by Peter Szondi to conduct a series of seminars at the University of Berlin. From then on he increased his visits to foreign countries inside and outside Europe.
Returning to Algeria in 1971, he lectured and taught at the University of Algiers. This was also the year of his much-noted paper "Signature, Event, Context" at the Congrès des sociétés de philosophie de langue française in Montreal. 1972 saw the publication of three more books and special editions of Lettres françaises and Le Monde. In 1974 he founded the series "La philosophie en effet" published by the newly founded Editions Galilées. A year later he helped to establish GREPH (Groupe de recherché sur l'enseignement philosophique) and began teaching at the University of Yale. This was also the year in which the so-called Yale School began its activities (Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, J. Hillis Miller) and the disputes about the "invasion" of deconstruction in America started up.
1979: Derrida and others set up the Estates General of Philosophy at the Sorbonne. First trip to Black Africa for a colloquium in Cotonou.
1980: Derrida defends his thesis Thèse d'Etatan at the Sorbonne. P. Lacoue-Labarthe and J.-L- Nancy organise a colloquium entitled "A partir du travail de Jacques Derrida" at Cérisy.
1981: Derrida, Jean-Pierre Vernant and a number of their friends establish the Jan Hus Society (devoted to aiding persecuted Czech intellectuals). Derrida is arrested in Prague and only released ("banished") after determined intervention by François Mitterrand and the French government.
1983: Foundation of the Collège intrernational de philosophie with Derrida as its first director. Derrida is elected to the Ecole des hautes études en science sociale.
1984: Lecture at Jürgen Habermas' seminar and keynote lecture for the James Joyce colloquium in Frankfurt.
1986: Collaboration with the American architect Peter Eisenmann on plans for the Parc de la Villette.
1989: Opening address at the colloquium on "Deconstruction and the Possibilities of Justice" organised by the Cardozo School of Law in New York.
1990: Seminars at the Academy of Science of the USSR and the University of Moscow. Keynote lecture at the colloquium "The Final Solution and the Limits of Representation" organised by S. Friedlander at the University of California (Los Angeles).
1992: Honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
2001: Theodor W. Adorno Prize of the city of Frankfurt am Main.
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