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PostSubject: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:03 am

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Jacques Derrida was one of the most well known twentieth century philosophers. He was also one of the most prolific. Distancing himself from the various philosophical movements and traditions that preceded him on the French intellectual scene (phenomenology, existentialism, and structuralism), he developed a strategy called “deconstruction” in the mid 1960s. Although not purely negative, deconstruction is primarily concerned with something tantamount to a critique of the Western philosophical tradition. Deconstruction is generally presented via an analysis of specific texts. It seeks to expose, and then to subvert, the various binary oppositions that undergird our dominant ways of thinking—presence/absence, speech/writing, and so forth.

Deconstruction has at least two aspects: literary and philosophical. The literary aspect concerns the textual interpretation, where invention is essential to finding hidden alternative meanings in the text. The philosophical aspect concerns the main target of deconstruction: the “metaphysics of presence,” or simply metaphysics. Starting from an Heideggerian point of view, Derrida argues that metaphysics affects the whole of philosophy from Plato onwards. Metaphysics creates dualistic oppositions and installs a hierarchy that unfortunately privileges one term of each dichotomy (presence before absence, speech before writing, and so on).

The deconstructive strategy is to unmask these too-sedimented ways of thinking, and it operates on them especially through two steps—reversing dichotomies and attempting to corrupt the dichotomies themselves. The strategy also aims to show that there are undecidables, that is, something that cannot conform to either side of a dichotomy or opposition. Undecidability returns in later period of Derrida’s reflection, when it is applied to reveal paradoxes involved in notions such as gift giving or hospitality, whose conditions of possibility are at the same time their conditions of impossibility. Because of this, it is undecidable whether authentic giving or hospitality are either possible or impossible.

In this period, the founder of deconstruction turns his attention to ethical themes. In particular, the theme of responsibility to the other (for example, God or a beloved person) leads Derrida to leave the idea that responsibility is associated with a behavior publicly and rationally justifiable by general principles. Reflecting upon tales of Jewish tradition, he highlights the absolute singularity of responsibility to the other.

Deconstruction has had an enormous influence in psychology, literary theory, cultural studies, linguistics, feminism, sociology and anthropology. Poised in the interstices between philosophy and non-philosophy (or philosophy and literature), it is not difficult to see why this is the case. What follows in this article, however, is an attempt to bring out the philosophical significance of Derrida’s thought.

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:08 am

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In 1930, Derrida was born into a Jewish family in Algiers. He was also born into an environment of some discrimination. In fact, he either withdrew from, or was forced out of at least two schools during his childhood simply on account of being Jewish. He was expelled from one school because there was a 7% limit on the Jewish population, and he later withdrew from another school on account of the anti-semitism. While Derrida would resist any reductive understanding of his work based upon his biographical life, it could be argued that these kind of experiences played a large role in his insistence upon the importance of the marginal, and the other, in his later thought.

Derrida was twice refused a position in the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure (where Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and the majority of French intellectuals and academics began their careers), but he was eventually accepted to the institution at the age of 19. He hence moved from Algiers to France, and soon after he also began to play a major role in the leftist journal Tel Quel. Derrida’s initial work in philosophy was largely phenomenological, and his early training as a philosopher was done largely through the lens of Husserl. Other important inspirations on his early thought include Nietzsche, Heidegger, Saussure, Levinas and Freud. Derrida acknowledges his indebtedness to all of these thinkers in the development of his approach to texts, which has come to be known as ‘deconstruction’.

It was in 1967 that Derrida really arrived as a philosopher of world importance. He published three momentous texts (Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and Speech and Phenomena). All of these works have been influential for different reasons, but it is Of Grammatology that remains his most famous work (it is analysed in some detail in this article). In Of Grammatology, Derrida reveals and then undermines the speech-writing opposition that he argues has been such an influential factor in Western thought. His preoccupation with language in this text is typical of much of his early work, and since the publication of these and other major texts (including Dissemination, Glas, The Postcard, Spectres of Marx, The Gift of Death, and Politics of Friendship), deconstruction has gradually moved from occupying a major role in continental Europe, to also becoming a significant player in the Anglo-American philosophical context. This is particularly so in the areas of literary criticism, and cultural studies, where deconstruction’s method of textual analysis has inspired theorists like Paul de Man. He has also had lecturing positions at various universities, the world over. Derrida died in 2004.

Deconstruction has frequently been the subject of some controversy. When Derrida was awarded an honorary doctorate at Cambridge in 1992, there were howls of protest from many ‘analytic’ philosophers. Since then, Derrida has also had many dialogues with philosophers like John Searle (see Limited Inc.), in which deconstruction has been roundly criticised, although perhaps unfairly at times. However, what is clear from the antipathy of such thinkers is that deconstruction challenges traditional philosophy in several important ways, and the remainder of this article will highlight why this is so.
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:08 am

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Derrida, like many other contemporary European theorists, is preoccupied with undermining the oppositional tendencies that have befallen much of the Western philosophical tradition. In fact, dualisms are the staple diet of deconstruction, for without these hierarchies and orders of subordination it would be left with nowhere to intervene. Deconstruction is parasitic in that rather than espousing yet another grand narrative, or theory about the nature of the world in which we partake, it restricts itself to distorting already existing narratives, and to revealing the dualistic hierarchies they conceal. While Derrida’s claims to being someone who speaks solely in the margins of philosophy can be contested, it is important to take these claims into account. Deconstruction is, somewhat infamously, the philosophy that says nothing. To the extent that it can be suggested that Derrida’s concerns are often philosophical, they are clearly not phenomenological (he assures us that his work is to be read specifically against Husserl, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty) and nor are they ontological.

Deconstruction, and particularly early deconstruction, functions by engaging in sustained analyses of particular texts. It is committed to the rigorous analysis of the literal meaning of a text, and yet also to finding within that meaning, perhaps in the neglected corners of the text (including the footnotes), internal problems that actually point towards alternative meanings. Deconstruction must hence establish a methodology that pays close attention to these apparently contradictory imperatives (sameness and difference) and a reading of any Derridean text can only reaffirm this dual aspect. Derrida speaks of the first aspect of this deconstructive strategy as being akin to a fidelity and a “desire to be faithful to the themes and audacities of a thinking” (WD 84). At the same time, however, deconstruction also famously borrows from Martin Heidegger’s conception of a ‘destructive retrieve’ and seeks to open texts up to alternative and usually repressed meanings that reside at least partly outside of the metaphysical tradition (although always also partly betrothed to it). This more violent and transgressive aspect of deconstruction is illustrated by Derrida’s consistent exhortation to “invent in your own language if you can or want to hear mine; invent if you can or want to give my language to be understood” (MO 57). In suggesting that a faithful interpretation of him is one that goes beyond him, Derrida installs invention as a vitally important aspect of any deconstructive reading. He is prone to making enigmatic suggestions like “go there where you cannot go, to the impossible, it is indeed the only way of coming or going” (ON 75), and ultimately, the merit of a deconstructive reading consists in this creative contact with another text that cannot be characterised as either mere fidelity or as an absolute transgression, but rather which oscillates between these dual demands. The intriguing thing about deconstruction, however, is that despite the fact that Derrida’s own interpretations of specific texts are quite radical, it is often difficult to pinpoint where the explanatory exegesis of a text ends and where the more violent aspect of deconstruction begins. Derrida is always reluctant to impose ‘my text’, ‘your text’ designations too conspicuously in his texts. This is partly because it is even problematic to speak of a ‘work’ of deconstruction, since deconstruction only highlights what was already revealed in the text itself. All of the elements of a deconstructive intervention reside in the “neglected cornerstones” of an already existing system (MDM 72), and this equation is not altered in any significant way whether that ‘system’ be conceived of as metaphysics generally, which must contain its non-metaphysical track, or the writings of a specific thinker, which must also always testify to that which they are attempting to exclude (MDM 73).

These are, of course, themes reflected upon at length by Derrida, and they have an immediate consequence on the meta-theoretical level. To the minimal extent that we can refer to Derrida’s own arguments, it must be recognised that they are always intertwined with the arguments of whomever, or whatever, he seeks to deconstruct. For example, Derrida argues that his critique of the Husserlian ‘now’ moment is actually based upon resources within Husserl’s own text which elide the self-presence that he was attempting to secure (SP 64-66). If Derrida’s point is simply that Husserl’s phenomenology holds within itself conclusions that Husserl failed to recognise, Derrida seems to be able to disavow any transcendental or ontological position. This is why he argues that his work occupies a place in the margins of philosophy, rather than simply being philosophy per se.

Deconstruction contends that in any text, there are inevitably points of equivocation and ‘undecidability’ that betray any stable meaning that an author might seek to impose upon his or her text. The process of writing always reveals that which has been suppressed, covers over that which has been disclosed, and more generally breaches the very oppositions that are thought to sustain it. This is why Derrida’s ‘philosophy’ is so textually based and it is also why his key terms are always changing, because depending upon who or what he is seeking to deconstruct, that point of equivocation will always be located in a different place.

This also ensures that any attempt to describe what deconstruction is, must be careful. Nothing would be more antithetical to deconstruction’s stated intent than this attempt at defining it through the decidedly metaphysical question “what is deconstruction?” There is a paradoxicality involved in trying to restrict deconstruction to one particular and overarching purpose (OG 19) when it is predicated upon the desire to expose us to that which is wholly other (tout autre) and to open us up to alternative possibilities. At times, this exegesis will run the risk of ignoring the many meanings of Derridean deconstruction, and the widely acknowledged difference between Derrida’s early and late work is merely the most obvious example of the difficulties involved in suggesting “deconstruction says this”, or “deconstruction prohibits that”.

That said, certain defining features of deconstruction can be noticed. For example, Derrida’s entire enterprise is predicated upon the conviction that dualisms are irrevocably present in the various philosophers and artisans that he considers. While some philosophers argue that he is a little reductive when he talks about the Western philosophical tradition, it is his understanding of this tradition that informs and provides the tools for a deconstructive response. Because of this, it is worth briefly considering the target of Derridean deconstruction – the metaphysics of presence, or somewhat synonymously, logocentrism.
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:47 am

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:55 pm

phoneutria wrote:

For those that don't speak French, the translation = " This is not a pipe. ".

Actually, very pertinent to Derrida's deconstruction.
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:57 pm

Do you speak French?
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:01 pm

perpetualburn wrote:
Do you speak French?

Nothing worth bragging about; basic stuff. A Canadian lady taught me a little when I was on vacation in Mexico.

I'm learning Russian right now.
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:50 am

Derrida sounds like just another Jew trying to undermine Western civilization for the benefit of his own kind. His work has been described as parasitical because rather than creating new ideas he is merely deconstructing (destroying) old. Apt eh?

I prefer to use his technique against postmodernism, the very thing that spawned it. This is how we fight fire with fire.

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:30 am

Recidivist wrote:
Derrida sounds like just another Jew trying to undermine Western civilization for the benefit of his own kind. His work has been described as parasitical because rather than creating new ideas he is merely deconstructing (destroying) old. Apt eh?

I prefer to use his technique against postmodernism, the very thing that spawned it. This is how we fight fire with fire.

I get that same sort of vibe from Derrida, too. I think his childhood experiences had a major effect on his psychology.

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:57 pm

My definition of western civilization is a little broader.
While one could say, western civilization is classical Greece, Rome, and all subsequent civilization that drew heavily from them, and distanced themselves from Jews, Judaism and Christianity, like Renaissance Italy, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and to a lesser extent, perhaps, the late 17th to early 20th century UK/US, and Napoleonic France, one could also say, Jews, Judaism and Christianity have become a part of western civilization, as western civilization is ephemeral, like anything, it's (d)evolving.
While I consider Greece and Rome, and all that followed from them to be western civilization proper, there is a sort peripheral western civilization, that arose in the near and middle east - Jews, Judeo-Christianity, Slavs and Communism.
Western civilization, or what has become of it, is the wedding of these two cultures, which are in many regards, polar opposites (masculine & feminine).

Perhaps more than anything else though, what western civilization is, is the ability and willingness to question oneself and ones society, much as Socrates did.
Questioning doesn't necessarily give you, leftism, no, in the case of Nietzsche and others, questioning lead them in the opposite direction of egalitarianism.
Western civilization has always been, more pluralistic, than others.
Take a look at classical Greece, how many philosophies, religions and cults it produced, many of them preaching and propagating diametrically opposing belief systems.
By contrast, what did Judea produce, or Persia, or Egypt, or Babylon, or even India and China?
Their cultures were much more, monolithic, even the latter two.
More than anything else, maybe what it means to be western is, "good strife", or capitalism, and when I say capitalism, I'm not just talking about materialism, but philosophical, capitalism, spiritual, capitalism, cultural capitalism, the notion that society as a whole, benefits from more/less peaceful competition between individuals and institutions.
Look at India and especially China, how homogenous they are, I mean sure, India is divided into loads of castes and villages and towns, but. Compare them with Europe, although Europe seems to be unifying lately.
They were once so many countries, all warring with one another for supremacy.

In the past, man misattributed his cultural and scientific innovations and inventions to the Gods, or heroes.
With western civilization, creativity has never become more mundane, more commonplace, something we can all do, to greater or lesser extents, depending on the intellect and personality of the individual.
Never before in history, has man taken hold of his mental powers, to evolve largely independently of his biology, to go beyond his cultural inheritance, where as our other half, Judeo-Christianity, would have man shrink before nature, humble himself before God, thinking there was only one way of ever thinking and doing things, and that it was written down in some book long ago, and it is to that book, we should forever refer and defer to.
Such is the very antithesis of western civilization, and yet, it was so versatile, as to incorporate its antithesis, and make it work somehow, some of the time.

The Northern Europeans have even gone beyond classical antiquity in their questioning and re-envisioning things. However, as corporations, governments and ideologies battle for dominance, the big fish eats the little, until there's few fish left in the pond.
Good strife and growth can only be sustained for so long, unless the pond were to turn into a sea, but such things take time, and often happen by accident, like Columbus's discovery of America.
There's prices to pay for good strife.

I don't have a problem with questioning things necessarily. My problem is with people who undermine things only, and stupidly and never offer alternatives.
My problem is not with nihilists per say, in the other sense of the word, as in iconoclasm, but unimaginative nihilists, as it's easy, all too easy to destroy, and not reform, or attempt to erect something out of or upon the ashes.

This creative spirit, this spiritual capital cannot be exported to other races, by and large, with a few possible exceptions like the Japanese, and even then, they haven't give us anything brand, spanking new.
This is something unique to our race, and our culture, and it's something worth preserving.
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:43 am

Derrida wrote:
If it recedes one day, leaving behind its works and signs on the shores
of our civilization, the structuralist invasion might become a question
for the historian of ideas, or perhaps even an object. But the historian
would be deceived if he came to this pass: by the very act of considering
the structuralist invasion as an object he would forget its meaning
and would forget that what is at stake, first of all, is an adventure
of vision, a conversion of the way of putting questions to any object
posed before us, to historical objects—his own—in particular. And,
unexpectedly among these, the literary object.
By way of analogy: the fact that universal thought, in all its domains,
by all its pathways and despite all differences, should be receiving a
formidable impulse from an anxiety about language—which can only
be an anxiety of language, within language itself—is a strangely concerted
development; and it is the nature of this development not to be able to display
itself in its entirety as a spectacle for the historian, if, by
chance, he were to attempt to recognize in it the sign of an epoch, the
fashion of a season, or the symptom of a crisis. Whatever the poverty of
our knowledge in this respect, it is certain that the question of the sign
is itself more or less, or in any event something other, than a sign of the
times. To dream of reducing it to a sign of the times is to dream of
violence. Especially when this question, an unexpectedly historical one,
approaches the point at which the simple significative nature of language
appears rather uncertain, partial, or inessential. It will be granted
readily that the analogy between the structuralist obsession and the
anxiety of language is not a chance one. Therefore, it will never be
possible, through some second- or third-hand reflection, to make the
structuralism of the twentieth century (and particularly the structuralism
of literary criticism, which has eagerly joined the trend) undertake
the mission that a structuralist critic has assigned to himself for the
nineteenth century: to contribute to a “future history of imagination
and affectivity.”1 Nor will it be possible to reduce the fascination
inherent in the notion of structure to a phenomenon of fashion,2
except by reconsidering and taking seriously the meanings of imagination,
affectivity, and fashion—doubtless the more urgent task. In any
event, if some aspect of structuralism belongs to the domains of
imagination, affectivity, or fashion, in the popular sense of these
words, this aspect will never be the essential one. The structuralist
stance, as well as our own attitudes assumed before or within language,
are not only moments of history. They are an astonishment rather, by
language as the origin of history. By historicity itself. And also, when
confronted by the possibility of speech and always already within it,
the finally acknowledged repetition of a surprise finally extended to the
dimensions of world culture—a surprise incomparable to any other, a
surprise responsible for the activation of what is called Western
thought, the thought whose destiny is to extend its domains while the
boundaries of the West are drawn back. By virtue of its innermost
intention, and like all questions about language, structuralism escapes
the classical history of ideas which already supposes structuralism’s
possibility, for the latter naively belongs to the province of language
and propounds itself within it.
Nevertheless, by virtue of an irreducible region of irreflection and
spontaneity within it, by virtue of the essential shadow of the
undeclared, the structuralist phenomenon will deserve examination by
the historian of ideas. For better or for worse. Everything within this
phenomenon that does not in itself transparently belong to the question
of the sign will merit this scrutiny; as will everything within it that
is methodologically effective, thereby possessing the kind of infallibility
now ascribed to sleepwalkers and formerly attributed to instinct,
which was said to be as certain as it was blind. It is not a lesser province
of the social science called history to have a privileged concern, in the
acts and institutions of man, with the immense region of somnambulism,
the almost-everything which is not the pure waking state, the sterile
and silent acidity of the question itself, the almost-nothing.3
Since we take nourishment from the fecundity of structuralism, it is
too soon to dispel our dream. We must muse upon what it might signify
from within it. In the future it will be interpreted, perhaps, as a relaxation,
if not a lapse, of the attention given to force, which is the tension of force itself.
Form fascinates when one no longer has the force to
understand force from within itself. That is, to create. This is why
literary criticism is structuralist in every age, in its essence and destiny.
Criticism has not always known this, but understands it now, and thus
is in the process of thinking itself in its own concept, system and
method. Criticism henceforth knows itself separated from force,
occasionally avenging itself on force by gravely and profoundly proving
that separation is the condition of the work, and not only of the discourse
on the work.4 Thus is explained the low note, the melancholy
pathos that can be perceived behind the triumphant cries of technical
ingenuity or mathematical subtlety that sometimes accompany certain
so-called “structural” analyses. Like melancholy for Gide, these analyses
are possible only after a certain defeat of force and within the
movement of diminished ardor. Which makes the structural consciousness
consciousness in general, as a conceptualization of the past,
I mean of facts in general. A reflection of the accomplished, the constituted,
the constructed. Historical, eschatalogical, and crepuscular by its
very situation.
But within structure there is not only form, relation, and configuration.
There is also interdependency and a totality which is always

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:50 am

Derrida wrote:
This geometry is only metaphorical, it will be said. Certainly. But
metaphor is never innocent. It orients research and fixes results. When
the spatial model is hit upon, when it functions, critical reflection rests
within it. In fact, and even if criticism does not admit this to be so.
One example among many others.
At the beginning of the essay entitled “Polyeucte, or the Ring and the
Helix,” the author prudently warns us that if he insists upon “schemas
that might appear excessively geometrical, it is because Corneille, more
than any other, practiced symmetry.” Moreover, “this geometry is not
cultivated for itself,” for “in the great plays it is a means subordinated
to the ends of passion” (p. 7).
But what, in fact, does this essay yield? Only the geometry of a
theater which is, however, one of “mad passion, heroic enthusiasm”
(p. 7). Not only does the geometric structure of Polyeucte mobilize all
the resources and attention of the author, but an entire teleology of
Corneille’s progress is coordinated to it. Everything transpires as if,
until 1643, Corneille had only gotten a glimpse of, or anticipated the
design of, Polyeucte, which was still in the shadows and which would
eventually coincide with the Corneillean design itself, thereby taking
on the dignity of an entelechy toward which everything would be in
motion. Corneille’s work and development are put into perspective and
interpreted teleologically on the basis of what is considered its destination,
its final structure. Before Polyeucte, everything is but a sketch in
which only what is missing is due consideration, those elements which
are still shapeless and lacking as concerns the perfection to come, or
which only foretell this perfection. “There were several years between
La galerie du palais and Polyeucte. Corneille looks for and finds himself. I will
not here trace the details of his progress, in which Le Cid and Cinna show
him inventing his own structure” (p. 9). After Polyeucte? It is never mentioned.
Similarly, among the works prior to it, only La galerie du palais and
Le Cid are taken into account, and these plays are examined, in the style
of preformationism, only as structural prefigurations of Polyeucte.
Thus, in La galerie du palais the inconstancy of Célidée separates her
from her lover. Tired of her inconstancy (but why?), she draws near
him again, while he, in turn, feigns inconstancy. They thus separate, to
be united at the end of the play, which is outlined as follows: “Initial
accord, separation, median reunification that fails,
second separation symmetrical to the first, final conjunction.
The destination is a return to the point of departure after a circuit in the form of a crossed ring” (p. Cool. What is singular is the crossed ring, for the destination as
return to the point of departure is of the commonest devices. Proust
himself . . . (cf. p. 144).
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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:03 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Derrida Sat Feb 13, 2016 12:32 pm

Derrida wrote:
"Every sign, linguistic or nonlinguistic, spoken or written (in the current sense of this opposition), in a small or large unit, can be cited; put between quotation marks; in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable. This does not imply that the mark is valid outside of a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center or absolute anchoring [ancrage]. This citationality, this duplication or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is neither an accident nor an anomaly, it is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could not even have a function called ‘normal.'" [Signature, p.12]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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