Jumping right in, because we’re all bored to tears by this controversy:
1) Searle’s critique of Derrida is obviously filled with gross misreadings.
2) But one of Searle’s misreadings is more interesting than the others.
3) Searle says that Derrida confuses permanence with iterability.
4) Derrida doesn’t confuse permanence with iterability. He assimilates permanence to iterability.
5) And that’s because Derrida’s working out of a phenomenological framework that is, fundamentally, idealist.
6) That’s to say: it’s based on the classical philosophical subordination of matter to form.
7) Derrida’s critique of Austin is largely based on Derrida’s claim that Austin’s work belongs to that philosophical tradition.
8 ) But it’s not clear to me that this claim is justified, in the strong form in which Derrida makes it.
I think this is why the whole Derrida/Searle debate gives the impression of two people talking past each other. Searle misreads Derrida because he totally misses the metaphysical level at which Derrida’s argument is pitched. But Derrida can’t quite come out and clarify that metaphysical level, because it’s a bit of a stretch to see Austin’s work as subordinate to the metaphysics of presence in the strong way Derrida needs it to be if his argument’s going to work.
I’m not all that settled in my opinions, here. My big leap above is obviously (8), which amounts to a rejection of the Austin-related argument of Signature Event Context. I need to justify that. I’ve been reading Austin today, and Derrida’s critique is mostly on the money, IMO. Nonetheless, I worry about the speed and, as it were, casualness, with which Derrida assimilates Austin to a philosophical tradition Austin mostly repudiates. The issue, I think – or one important issue – is ‘ordinary language’, and the extent to which Austin’s programmatic refusal of standard philosophical discourse locates him outside the game of transcendental necessary conditions, etc, that Derrida still plays, however sceptically. Austin certainly can’t be wholly exempted from metaphysical discourse – but his work is perhaps more distant from it that Derrida wants to acknowledge.
But that’s not putting it very well; I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.