Some initial, albeit snarky, comments. Thanks, lack of caffeination. Thank you very much.

Magic is the utilization of language to manipulate the environment or the perception thereof. So is science. So there. I can pander in universal and absolute metaphysical statements, too.

Levi-Strauss is much more keen in his qualifications and stating his own ambiguities than Derrida; and, yet, Derrida implores that Levi-Strauss is the dualist who depends on unreliable dichotomies and that we need to read ambiguity into Levi-Strauss. I'll be a little bit more charitable than both, onward from here...

An important note from a very different text.... Derrida said: "Something that I learned from the great figures in the history of philosophy, from Husserl in particular, is the necessity of posing transcendental questions in order not to be held within the fragility of an incompetent empiricist discourse, and thus it is in order to avoid empiricism, positivism and psychologism that it is endlessly necessary to renew transcendental questioning. But such questioning must be renewed in taking account of the possibility of fiction, of accidentality and contingency, thereby ensuring that this new form of transcendental questioning only mimics the phantom of classical transcendental seriousness without renouncing that which, within this phantom, constitutes an essential heritage." (From Deconstruction and Pragmatism, edited by Mouffe, pp. 83-4)

Language is a tricky beast, and it even catches our friend, Jacques... Levi-Strauss perhaps does himself a disservice when using science and magic, when perhaps parallelogram and aquamarine would have equally suitable. Because the magician does science and magic, and the scientist certainly does a whole shitload of magic.

"...the first difference between magic and science is therefore that magic postulates a complete and all-embracing determinism. Science, on the other hand, is based on a distinction between levels; only some of these admit forms of determinism; on others the same forms of determinism are held not to apply. One can go further and think of the rigorous precision of magical thought and ritual practices as an expression of the unconscious apprehension of the truth of determinism, the mode in which scientific phenomena exist...." (p. 7)

"I am not however commending a return to the popular belief (although it has some validity in its own narrow context) according to which magic is a timid and stuttering form of science. One deprives oneself of all means of understanding magical thought if one tries to reduce it to a moment or stage in technical and scientific evolution." (p. 8)

"It is therefore better, instead of contrasting magic and science, to compare them as two parallel modes of acquiring knowledge. Their theoretical and practical results differ in value, for it is true that science is more successful than magic from this point of view, although magic foreshadows science in that it is sometimes also successful. Both science and magic however require the same sort of mental operations and they differ not so much in kind as in the different types of phenomena to which they are applied." (p. 9)

"It may be objected that science (vernacular medical remedies) of this kind can scarcely be much practical effect. The answer to this is that its main purpose is not a practical one. It meets intellectual requirements rather than or instead of satisfying needs." (Sure, all quite self-explanatory, because we then move onto "The real question...." (p. 6)

Levi-Strauss, quoting Simpson: "Scientists do tolerate uncertainly and frustration, because they must. The one thing that they do not and must not tolerate is disorder. The whole aim of theoretical science is to carry to the highest possible and conscious degree the perceptual reduction of chaos that began in so lowly and (in all probability) unconscious a way with the origin of life. In specific instances it can well be questioned whether the order so achieved is an objective characteristic of the phenomena or is an artifact constructed by the scientist." (p. 6)
While this is applied to taxonomy by Simpson (because what better a case to explore the theme of classification), Levi-Strauss uses it to characterize "all thought." But before I move on to addressing that (below), I must jump ahead....
"Any classification is superior to chaos and even a clasification at the level of sensible properties is a step towards rational ordering." (p. 10) Normativity and epistemology all smashed together in a steamy sweaty mass... I like the approach. Derrida doesn't. I mainly dislike the normative position, not the strategy.
"The thought we call primitive is founded on this demand for order," writes Levi-Strauss. "This is equally true of all thought but it is through the properties common to all thought that we can most easily begin to understand forms of though which seem very strange to us." (p. 6)
Perhaps a stretch, but it seems to me to characterize a fundamental, driving ethos at the core of Western science since the Enlightenment, and (debatably) just as central, today.

Levi-Strauss, quoting Smith Bowen: "...(my instructor) simply could not realize it was not the words but the plants which baffled me." (p. 4)

"It is necessary to add that they balance between structure and event, necessity and contingency, the internal and external is a precarious one. It is constantly threatened by forces which act in one direction or the other according to fluctuations in fashion, style or general social conditions." (Latour cringes, particularly on the last three words, which perhaps I think are among the most important to latch onto in this piece.)

Some questions... I want to like this piece, but here are the things that either confuse or confound, and occasionally produce frustrations....

"Concepts thus appear like operators opening up the set being worked with and signification like the operator of its reorganization, which neither extends nor renews it and limits itself to obtaining the group of its transformations." (p. 13) What?

Could we talk about "event" in Levi-Strauss and Derrida, separately and in relation? i.e. "Science as a whole is based on the distinction between the contingent and the necessary, this being also what distinguishes event and structure." (p. 14) Also, "... the scientist creating events (changing the world) by means of structures and the 'bricoleur' creating structures by means of events." (p. 15)

Related, but this is selected not just for how "event" is used, but also for its argument: "The creative act which gives rise to myths is in fact exactly the reverse of that which gives rise to works of art. In the case of works of art, the starting point is a set of one or more objects and one or more events which aesthetic creation unifies by revealing a common structure. Myths travel the same road but start from the other end. They use a structure to produce what is itself an object consisting of a set of events (for all myths tell a story). Art thus proceeds from a set (object + event) to the discovery of its structure. Myth starts from a structure by means of which it constructs a set (object + event)." (p. 17)

"Signs, and images which have acquired significance, may still lack comprehension; unlike concepts, they do not yet possess simultaneous and theoretically unlimited relations with other entities of the same kind. They are however already permutable, that is, capable of standing in successive relations with other entities -- although with only a limited number and, as we have seen, only on the condition that they always form a system in which an alteration which affects one element automatically affects all the others." (p. 13)

"The essential problem for the philosophy of art is to know whether the artist regards them as interlocutors or not. No doubt they are always regarded as such, although least of all in art which is too professional and most of all in the raw or naive art which verges on 'bricolage', to the detriment of structure in both cases. No form of art is, however, worthy of the name if it allows itself to come entirely under the sway of extraneous contingencies whether of occasion or purpose..." (p. 20)

Play is the disruption of presence.