However widely - and differently - Jacques Derrida may be viewed as a "foundational" French thinker, the most basic questions concerning his work still remain unanswered: Is Derrida a friend of reason, or philosophy, or rather the most radical of skeptics? Are language-related themes - writing, semiosis - his central concern, or does he really write about something else? And does his thought form a system of its own, or does it primarily consist of commentaries on individual texts? This book seeks to address these questions by returning to what it claims is essential history: the development of Derrida's core thought through his engagement with Husserlian phenomenology. Joshua Kates recasts what has come to be known as the Derrida/Husserl debate, by approaching Derrida's thought historically, through its development. Based on this developmental work, "Essential History" culminates by offering discrete interpretations of Derrida's two book-length 1967 texts, interpretations that elucidate the until now largely opaque relation of Derrida's interest in language to his focus on philosophical concerns.A fundamental reinterpretation of Derrida's project and the works for which he is best known, Kates's study fashions a new manner of working with the French thinker that respects the radical singularity of his thought as well as the often different aims of those he reads. Such a view is in fact "essential" if Derrida studies are to remain a vital field of scholarly inquiry, and if the humanities, more generally, are to have access to a replenishing source of living theoretical concerns.