Logocentrism: the culprit of phonocentrism and other -isms

Before we proceed to phonocentrism, we need to understand what logocentrism is first. Because, phonocentrism is part of the larger aspect: logocentrism.

Alex Scott succinctly describes: "According to Derrida, 'logocentrism' is the attitude that logos (the Greek term for speech, word, thought, law, or reason) is the central principle of language and philosophy."[1]

That is, logocentrism is a metaphysical fundamental of attitude consisting of logos.

(Draft vlog)

The characteristics of logocentrism

Logos; metaphysics of presence; dichotomy; hierarchy; supplementarity; linearization


Logos are a set of speech, thought, god, reason, mathematics, truth, word, etc. What patterns do you see? Purity, truth, God, sound, voice, absolute, objectivity.

Logos become the center as a foundation which creates hierarchy and dichotomy as well as the Center and its margins or the Other.

Dichotomy and hierarchy

First, binary oppositions are laid.

E.g. speaking vs writing, image vs word, looking vs reading, gesture vs language, hearing vs deaf, speech vs sign language.

More: presence / absence, man / woman, masculine / feminine, music / visual art, philosophy (truth) / literature (rhetoric), etc.

Second, privilege the one (center) over the "other" (margin) thus subordinate the other.

Hierarchy from privileging one one over another in binary opposition leads to creating a center and margins of social structure and social conflicts/issues (e.g. racism, sexism, audism, and other structgural dominances). It results in a dominance of one over the other. E.g. genders and colors of skin.

E.g. speech over writing, speech over sign language. Hearing superior to Deaf people.

This deeply rooted Western belief system has perpetuated the idea that language equates with speech within the hierarchical structure.

phonocentrism: ptolemy of language

Hierarchy is one of logocentrism's characteristics. The diagram above shows the hierarchy of purity and language starting with God (absolute, truth, purity) down to thought (the closest to God), speech associated with language (an imitation of thought), writing (an imitation of speech), and finally sign language (a substitute for speech).

There, logocentrism and its phonocentrism result in: audism (discrimination based on hearing status), iconoclasm (religious opposition to image), signoclasm (slashing hands for using sign language), downcast eyes on images (associated with pictures, low literacy, etc) for music (associated with mathematics, reason, logic), anti-ocularcentrism, hearing privelege, and so on.

Now you know where they come from or where you come from? Let's move on the next post on phonocentrism.

Metaphysics of presence

Dichotomy: presence vs absence

speech <--> presence

speech (presence) / writing (absence)

hearing (presence) / deaf (absence)

Here comes the hierarchial perception: where there is no hearing, it leads to no language. Speech is close to the thought, which in turns close to the truth/God. In Greek Aristotle's time, Deaf people were seen as having no soul.

Logocentric attitude/mentality

Here are some examples of logocentric attitude and mentality found in daily literature, behavior, and belief.

sign language is a substitute of speech. Hierarchy.

If no speech, then gesture. Hierarchy.

Aristotle proclaimed that "Deaf cannot reason without hearing." How logical is that!

Images = a supplement to the text. Superiority and hierarchy. How about text is a supplement to the image? That would work too.

Language <--> hearing

Left cerebral hemisphere = speech language. When in fact speaking ASL activates the same linguistic regions of the left brain (Broca and Wernicke).

Mathematics = sound = divine. Where sound can be replaced with "vibration" that applies to both hearing and eyeing people.

baby sign language -> "baby can communicate before talk." Signing is talking. Manual speaking is not before vocal speaking. Language is amodal. Both manual-speaking and vocal-speaking are on the same timeline of language development.

Posted 2007-2014.


[1] Jim Powell, Derrida for Beginners, (New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, 1997), p 33 cited in Alex Scott.

Related posts

Introducing phonocentrism and sign language

Reframing from logocentrism to complementarity.

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