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General Editors Note

The aim of Derrida Today is to see Derridas work in its broadest possible context and to argue for its keen and enduring relevance to our present intellectual, cultural and political situations. Its aim is not to conceive of Derridas work as merely a major development in thinking about textuality, nor as simply belonging to the specic philosophical discussions in the name of which some philosophers have reclaimed it. Derrida Today attempts, therefore, to have the broadest possible reference, from the philosophical and theoretical through the most aesthetically innovative to the most urgently political. It seeks to consider work that is rigorous and provocative, exact and experimental. It will be prepared to consider any approach to the reading of Derridas work and the application of deconstruction, as long as it produces valuable and useful insights. It aims not to be narrowly pedantic about approach, topic or style, or to police the Derridean legacy for its orthodoxy or purported accuracy or delity to a specic set of conclusions. Given this, the journal is not only about what we as general editors decide it to be, its life and trajectory will also be determined, even perhaps, unpredictably, by the topics and styles contributors offer. In this sense, we hope the journal will promote the ethical commitment of deconstruction; to an openness to the event to come. Nicole Anderson and Nick Manseld

Conference Issue Statement

This issue of Derrida Today contains papers originally delivered at the inaugural Derrida Today Conference, held in Sydney between 10 and 12 July 2008 (organised by Nicole Anderson and Nick Manseld). The conference attracted over 150 delegates. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who presented papers at the conference, and who sent in submissions for this issue, even though they could not all be included. We would also like to thank the many people who contributed to the success of the conference: Professor Judyth Sachs, who launched the journal at the conference; our keynotes Andrew Benjamin, Catherine Malabou and Martin McQuillan, and all those who helped with the organisation, especially Stephen Barker, Niall Lucy, Elaine Kelly, Lara Palombo, Ravi Glasser-Vora, Elaine Laforteza, Vanessa Fredericks and Jon Seltin. Our deep thanks to Claire Colebrook and Stephen Barker, who launched Joanna Hodges Derrida on Time and Martin McQuillans The Politics of Deconstruction and Deconstruction Reading Politics at Gleebooks during the conference. Finally thanks to the Department of Critical and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney, for its generous support. The next Derrida Today conference is planned for London in July 2010 (keep checking http://www.derridatoday.org/ for details).

Extra Time and the Death Penalties: On a Newly Arisen Violent Tone in Philosophy

Martin McQuillan
Abstract In light of recent writing on politics and violence within contemporary continental philosophy, this text revisits Derridas frequently articulated philosophical opposition to the death penalty. This essay expresses dismay at a certain theoretical discourse today that nds within itself the resources to mount a defence from within the humanities of political violence and by extension an overt justication of the death penalty. Slavoj ieks essay on Robespierre is unpicked as one such representative text. It is contrasted to Derridas scrupulous reading of Kant as an advocate of the death penalty. This essay seeks to name and question a new Maoist, thanato-theological current in contemporary theoretical writing and should be considered as an opening salvo in a sustained future challenge to such thought. * I am on the side of life Hlne Cixous (Cixous 2010, forthcoming) While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes mass murder, the rape and murder of a child so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justied in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment. Barack Obama (Obama 2008, 57) You would think that it would be a straightforward thing to oppose the death penalty in Theory today. You would think that this would be an unproblematic and uncontroversial thing, today, in the context of the

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university, amongst philosophers and theorists, in the early twenty-rst century. You would think! You would think it unnecessary to have to make a philosophical defence of the abolition of the death penalty and even more unnecessary to make a defence of a philosophical defence of abolition. You would think such things did not need to be said and that to be against the death penalty would be a given of the liberal humanist bubble we inhabit. You would think! Apparently not, apparently it is necessary to turn to the question of the death penalty today and to do so not as a response to the numerous states which still practice capital punishment (the punishment of the cap, or the head) but as a more local response to fellow travellers who nd within themselves the resources to defend the death penalty, and even to make a philosophical defence of the death penalty. This defence in itself is shocking and calls for exposure. It must be named as such and denounced as such, given no place to hide as philosophy or so-called Theory. However, in my view it is a symptom of a wider tendency, which also has to be named and so brought within the spotlight of rigorous critical examination. Such an inquiry is completely apposite to the question at stake for us today (this is the fourth mention of the today in my opening paragraph). It is totally germane to the problem that we are calling here Derrida Today, of what remains of Derrida today, of what is to be done with Derrida today, and of what the today might mean for Derrida. Let me begin by quoting myself from the inaugural edition of the journal Derrida Today, in the text Derrida and Policy: Is Deconstruction Really a Social Science? If I begin by quoting myself it is not out of an abyssal egotism but out of respect for the journal that gathers these texts together today.1 In edition one of Derrida Today, day zero or day one perhaps, I wrote:
The political views that Derrida expresses in his texts are reassuringly liberal and thus equally familiar and banal: he is against the death sentence, for international law and against the invasion of Iraq, he is critical of the state of Israel but condemns those who would see it destroyed, he was for the release of Nelson Mandela and Mumia Abu-Jamal, he has a complex relation to animal rights and for the openness of Europe, he is suspicious of the papermachine of bureaucracy in education and for the teaching of philosophy in the Lyce, he condemned Milosevic and worked with clandestine intellectuals in repressive regimes, he was against Le Pen and for the rights of immigrants and so on. (McQuillan 2008, 123)

What strikes me today about this sentence now, today being another day from the today in which this was written for Derrida Today,

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is that of the political views that Derrida expresses in his texts and which I have the temerity to name here as reassuringly liberal and even familiar and banal the rst to be listed, that is to say the most liberal and the most banal, is his opposition to the death penalty. Is this not the very demonstration of his liberalism, is it not the most banal thing, of which there can be nothing to say and which should be obvious beyond question as a rst principle. I even name his work on the death penalty twice in this sentence as exemplary of his political views: many people were for the release of Nelson Mandela but not everyone was for the release of the death-row prisoner and Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Even so, I think the point that this fatigued sentence was intended to make was that one would expect Jacques Derrida to defend prisoners on death row and that this in itself was not a controversial or necessarily radical political position (this obscure term radical will require some unpicking on another occasion). The force that lies behind this sentence is that of the you would think. This will not require reection at a future date, such positions that Derrida took and arguments that he made were the sine qua non of the decent liberalism with which he was frequently and mistakenly confused. And yet, it would seem that an opposition to the death penalty will be required to be revisited as a live philosophical issue in the humanities today. I am thinking here of Slavoj ieks spectacularly misjudged introduction to a collection of texts by Maximilien Robespierre, Robespierre, or, the Divine Violence of Terror. Now, one hesitates before beginning a reading of a text such as this. On the one hand, to take the time, publicly and prominently, to discuss such stupidity is in some sense to give credit to that stupidity as something worthy of that time, the time of day, as it were, our precious time, the time of (Derrida to)day. This is true and some readers will say that today there are things more worthy of our time than Slavoj iek. On another occasion I might not disagree with them but here I am less concerned with the arguments of ieks text itself, such as they are, but with what they exemplify institutionally, mediatically and pedagogically today. It is this wider, newly arisen violent tone in theoretical discourse, of which iek is only a part, and which I will later call the new Political Theology also the new Maoism, that I have in my sights today. I will have more to say on this presently. The other risk with addressing this essay today in this space is that in addressing stupidity, stupidity will return a stupid answer and in its ignorance mistake the time spent on this essay as an afrmation of its own importance (misrecognizing rebuke for attention) or as indicative of an antagonism between camps, as

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if to be for Derrida meant to be against iek (and others) and vice versa. No debate could be more sterile or un-interesting. On another occasion and in a different context, I may well have cause to say a great deal about iek or even to nd myself defending iek. Allow me to repeat myself in order not to be misunderstood, my interest here is not in iek as such or in an attack on the expanded corpus of ieks writing, rather it emerges out of an extreme un-ease I have been feeling of late concerning the present direction of theory and those of my generation who are currently engaged in the writing of its future. ieks text is, I will argue, a justication of political violence; I will even call it a philosophical justication (this is important), and an apology for capital punishment. As such, it should be named and denounced and the criteriology under which it operates examined as part of a wider current of erroneous thought in the academy today. It seems to me that the stakes of what Nicole Anderson and Nick Manseld have termed Derrida Today reside in some important way in just such an encounter and examination. ieks avowed aim in this essay, and in his promotion of Robespierre as a gure whose writing we might be required to account for today, is precisely to reinvent emancipatory terror (iek 2007, xxi). He describes this as our task today. This reinvention of terror must be a theoretical reinvention of terror since others are presently doing a perfectly good job of reinventing terror all over the world. Our task today, says iek in other words, is to justify theoretically terror as a revolutionary act. He asks, does the (often deplorable) actuality of the revolutionary terror compel us to reject the very idea of Terror, or is there a way to repeat it in todays different historical constellation, to redeem its virtual content from its actualization? It can and should be done (iek 2007, xiixiii). Now, even at this point, before we have really started, I would like to say, along with Bartleby, Id rather not, or with Derrida, count me out.2 This is not a project I would like to participate in. The implications for the reinvention of terror today cannot be lost on iek and indeed, as we shall see they are not, but they are reserved for an aside at the end of the essay in the most oblique, cowardly and ignoble of ways. What is the relation between this so-called virtual content of terror and its actualization? Since when was the virtual limited in this way? How is one to prevent the actualization of terror having identied this virtual kernel, as if such a set of metaphors were in any way sustained or rigorously upheld in the face of the empirical? And what would one do with a

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localised and virtual terrorism other than then actualise it? The relation between virtual terror and real terror can only be like the relationship between the Mother of psychoanalysis and real mothers, whereby the former does not refer to any of the latter but all real mothers are de facto subsumed by the Mother whenever it is announced in a relation without relation that is nevertheless and because of this a relation.3 The reason to wish to reinvent terror for iek is the challenge that such a violent irruption would pose to what he calls the postpolitical biopolitics that administers bare life in western democracies and through them orchestrates globalisation. Now, insofar as this critique of western democracy and capital comes from a certain appreciation of Agambens reading of Benjamin, neither Agamben nor Benjamin can be held responsible for the varieties of nonsense that are spoken for or against their writing, anymore than Derrida can. It would take another period of extra time to take a diversion into Agambens misreading of the tricky and precarious distinction between bios and zo in Plato and Aristotle that Agamben, as Derrida notes in Rogues, reduces to a strict opposition as the basis of the quasi-totality of his argument about sovereignty and the biopolitical in Homo Sacer (Derrida 2005, 24). However, it might be worth asking at this moment of ieks position here, how can the present arrangement of western democracy be simultaneously both postpolitical and a biopolitics, that is to say both beyond politics and a political practice? Surely, politics in this phrase has two contradictory and exclusive meanings? To be postpolitical in this sense means to be after a model of political antagonism between identiable and seemingly monolithic blocks of a revolutionary or emancipatory left and a right that defends the interests of capital; as if this were not a cartoon version of the political or even an adequate understanding of the deferred logic of the post.4 That is to say, ieks position as a position exempts itself from the present terrain of politics by dismissing all available positions as the mere administration of biopolitics in favour of a transcendental afrmation of a non-position of pure negation in which no position is pure enough to correspond to the imaginary space of the lapsed world of the imagined pre-postpolitical. Thus, there is no political position from which one can adequately respond to iek, any real position available today being always outanked by his own transcendental revolutionary position as a mere defence of bourgeois biopolitics. In this sense, ieks position is a strict Maoism, closed and impervious to critique. This will become apparent in the course of our present investigation.

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ieks argument begins with an attempt to offer concrete form to what Benjamin calls in the Critique of Violence, divine violence, when those outside the structured social eld strike blindly, demanding and enacting immediate justice/vengeance (iek 2007, x). Paraphrasing Engels on the Paris Commune as the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and addressing liberal critical theorists such as myself who may have been interested by Benjamins essay, iek states:
Well and good, gentlemen critical theorists, do you want to know what this divine violence looks like? Look at the revolutionary Terror of 179294. That was the Divine Violence. (And the series goes on: the Red Terror of 1919. . . ) That is to say, one should fearlessly identify divine violence with a positively existing historical phenomenon, thus avoiding all obscurantist mystication. (iek 2007, x)

I very much doubt whether Robespierre and his fellow lawyers can be said to have been in anyway outside of the structured social eld, but on that point of identifying divine violence with a real event, I could not agree more. It has always been my contention that philosophy should account for its systematic and universalising gestures by putting them at risk through the analysis of positive historical phenomena, even if this would alter the nature of philosophy itself. The question is however, from the very beginning of this treatise, has iek made the correct identication of divine violence? Would not the storming of the Bastille, say, be divine violence by Benjamins denition and the considerably later Jacobin Terror not be something else entirely? Something like a premeditated inaugural violence that founds a state? However, what is interesting here is the ellipsis of the series that runs on from the Red Terror of 1919 (again a bit of a delay after the storming of the Winter Palace). iek is unusually coy here. How does the series run? From 1919 to the terror of the Cultural Revolution, to the terror of the Khmer Rouge, to the terror of Iranian revolution, to the terror of the Taliban? Surely, ieks interpretation of Benjamins notion of divine violence is not limited to good examples, right-on, or left-wing examples? Revolutionary terror as divine violence is surely not unique to the left, as if it were ok for the left to kill people but not the right? Did I miss a day at Theory Camp when it became acceptable to say this sort of thing? Just because the Terror of the guillotine occurred in 1792 that does not mean it is an event redeemable as divine violence any more than year zero and the killing elds of Cambodia would be. And yet, it would seem that this ellipsis, the unsaid in ieks essay, does indeed stand for the bloody run of history. In reclaiming

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Robespierre and reinventing terror, iek clearly wants to tell us a parable for our time. He is quick to defend Robespierre from our modern liberal bourgeois sensibilities and thus from the claim, say, that he unleashed a violent terror that he was unable to control and ultimately fell victim to. He goes on:
One should nonetheless move beyond the quick dismissal of Robespierres rhetorical strategy as the strategy of terrorist culpabilization [all members of a corrupt society are guilty]. And to discern its moment of truth: there are no innocent bystanders in the crucial moments of revolutionary decision, because, in such moments, innocence itself exempting oneself from the decision, going on as if the struggle I am witnessing does not really concern me is the highest treason. That is to say, the fear of being accused of treason is my treason, because, even if I did not do anything against the revolution, this fear itself, the fact that it emerged in me, demonstrates that my subjective position is external to the revolution, that I experience revolution as an external force threatening me. (iek 2007, xvi)

For iek here the decision seems to be in someway calculable and thus rational. It is on the contrary, for iek, irrational (or just plain bourgeois or counter-revolutionary) to fear that one will become caught up in the machinic violence of revolutionary terror because this would be to position oneself in a relation of exteriority to the revolution and thus act counter to the revolution. All subjectivity, that wishes to be considered revolutionary, should subordinate itself to the machinic computational logic of the revolution. Now, one could begin by picking at this very idea of the inside/outside division which iek and Robespierre have quickly assembled as an apparatus to justify the calculability of the revolutionary decision. This would seem to be the most logo-centric of revolutions (and thus the least revolutionary of revolutions). There is no room, as the killing machine of the revolution gets under way, for saying count me out. So, iek continues:
In short, how can Robespierre be sure that the process he has unleashed will not swallow him up? It is here that his position takes on a sublime greatness he fully assumes the danger that now threatens Danton will tomorrow threaten him. The reason that he is so serene, that he is not afraid of this fate, is not that Danton was a traitor, while he, Robespierre, is pure, a direct embodiment of the peoples Will; it is that he, Robespierre, is not afraid to die his eventual death will be a mere accident which counts for nothing: What does danger matter to me? My life belongs to the homeland; my heart is free from fear; and if I were to die, I would do so without reproach and without ignominy. Consequently, insofar as the shift from we to I can effectively be

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determined as the moment when the democratic mask falls down and when Robespierre openly asserts himself as a Master . . . the term Master has to be given here its full Hegelian weight: the Master is the gure of sovereignty, the one who is not afraid to die, who is ready to risk everything. In other words, the ultimate meaning of Robespierres rst-person singular (I) is: I am not afraid to die. (iek 2007, xvii)

At this point I am beginning to wonder if I have missed a whole week at Theory Camp. To recap, it does not matter that the revolutionary terror of mass execution has gone so far out of control that its author and instigator be put to death because through this cleansing divine violence the revolution will be achieved and any lives lost in the event are of no signicance because the idea and purpose of the revolution are of greater importance. Is this a serious proposition in 2008? Let us not even start the task of unpicking this logic of ends and means and of equivalences and of all the logical confusion evident here, but simply ask following the cultural revolution, following the Khmer Rouge and Taliban, are you serious? Is this not a Swiftian comic performance of an absurdism to demonstrate the absurd politesse of academic conventions? If only it were. iek continues, that the truly revolutionary position is not to take care during a time of terror but, quoting Yamamoto Jocho, a Zen priest, to consider oneself dead beforehand (iek 2007, xvii). At this point iek cites Japanese soldiers during World War II who conducted their own funerals before going to war, because we have now seamlessly slipped from the position of the revolutionary to that of the warrior. He may as well be (and indeed by inference he is) talking about the videos of suicide bombers, the French term for suicide bomber is of course kamikaze. Let us not even pause, because iek does not, to consider that it might be problematic to collapse all of these singularities into a continuous and homogenous dialectical history and that the question of the so-called suicide bomber today might be raised as singular occurrence with its own history. However, iek presses on:
This pre-emptive self-exclusion from the domain of the living of course turns the soldier into a properly sublime gure. Instead of dismissing this feature as part of Fascist militarism, one should assert it as also constitutive of a radical revolutionary position. (iek 2007, xviii)

Sorry, there was me mistaking the pathology theocratic death cults with Fascist militarism, how bourgeois of me. I can now see that this fascination with death constitutes the true sublimity of the suicide

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bomber. But iek has more to say when he cites Mao as exemplifying this terroristic sublime when he states that the US nuclear arsenal could destroy the whole of China and blow up the entire world but still not quench the revolutionary spirit:
There evidently is an inhuman madness in this argument: is the fact that the destruction of the planet Earth would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole not a rather poor solace for the extinguished humanity? The argument only works if, in a Kantian way, one presupposes a pure transcendental subject unaffected by this catastrophe a subject which, although non-existing in reality, is operative as a virtual point of reference. Every authentic revolutionary has to assume this attitude of thoroughly abstracting from, despising even, the imbecilic particularity of ones immediate existence, or, as Saint-Just formulated in an unsurpassable way this indifference towards what Benjamin called bare life: I despise the dust that forms me and speaks to you. (iek 2007, xviii)

I can now see that I had not in fact missed a week at Theory Camp but in fact was at an entirely different school altogether. There is no negotiating with an argument that recognises itself as inhuman madness but continues anyway to posit a non-real, non-existing revolutionary transcendental subject unaffected by the slaughter going on around it, as the principle by which the authenticity and truth of the revolution should be measured. I cannot speak to this transcendental subject because it does not exist; it does not suffer from the difculties of bare life that one might be required to defend or to emancipate. Its position is one of strict and pure terror as it regulates and justies a closed and violent system of death. This is nothing but a strict onto-thanatotheology of state terror. In what way is the virtual revolutionary subject here different from other virtual subject which might as easily substitute for it, such as the state, the Fatherland and so on? But the problem for iek is not terror; terror simply put is not a bad thing for iek. Indeed it is to be welcomed because it breaks out of the biopolitical administration of life. True it replaces the administration of life with the computational extermination of life, but from the revolutionary point of view the dialectic of contingency and necessity retrospectively confers on an event like the Terror, as the substantialization of the general will, the form of not an aberrant episode but an occurrence that was determined before it took place, by the events of history. This sounds to me like a post hoc ergo propter hoc justication of violence but it remains ieks guiding question, what would a Jacobin politics which took into account this retroactive-contingent rise

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of universality look like? How are we to reinvent the Jacobin terror? (iek 2007, xxiv). His answer is to accord terror the virtue of virtue itself. Passing through Kant once more he summons up the categorical imperative as the injunction by which one should subject oneself to the revolutionary will but at the same time it would be un-revolutionary to seek a guarantee of what the general will might actually be because this would be, confusingly, to subject oneself to the big Other: the revolution will not be authorised by a democratic plebiscite, for example. Rather the truly radical stance for iek would be to break with the biopolitics of fear that is the current status quo through a politics based on a set of universal axioms (iek 2007, xxvi) that should be pursued regardless of the general will, which when presented with revolutionary truth will realise its error. In this sense, the revolutionary radical, as the defender of these universal axioms, is truly virtuous and the use of terror is justied because it is a virtuous use of violence. The logic of the purity of revolutionary virtue is quite dizzying here. How can one distinguish between the personal interests and economic interests, say, of the revolutionary with the guillotine at hand and the virtue of the transcendental, non-real, non-existing subject of the revolution? As I said, you would think that this did not need deconstructing at this particular moment in history and indeed I will draw this trawl through ieks essay to a close presently rather than waste any more of your time with it. However, allow me to point to a few implications of all of this for ieks position, those who would associate themselves with it, those who laud it as the present state of theory and those even foolish enough to oppose it to something like deconstruction. For iek the opposite (as we have seen he is keen on oppositional thinking) of biopolitical administration is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which would interrupt the depoliticization of todays middleclass, which merely seeks to sustain its way of life. Thus, the revolution against biopolitical administration returns to a familiar model based upon a revolutionary avant-garde of contemporary Jacobins who will act on behalf of the people to achieve what democracy cannot achieve because it is compromised by the sovereignty of the state, which regulates elections that reduce the will of the people to a mechanical collection of individuals. Thus, as iek admits twenty-nine pages into his essay, and in complete contradiction to his own argument, as Danton dened it the Jacobin terror was not divine violence at all but a state terror as a pre-emptive action whose true aim was not to seek revenge against the enemies but to prevent the direct divine violence of the sans-culottes, of the people themselves. In other words, let us do what

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the people demand us to do so that they will not do it themselves (iek 2007, xxix). By this reckoning, by which the purity of divine violence can be mediated and represented by a presumptive virtuous avant-garde, all state violence from the Burmese generals to Serbian nationalism is justiable. However, rather than naming this as a pre-emptive violence of revenge, this is what iek calls democracy because in so far as it intensies the antagonism against the status quo, it is synonymous with politics itself, the dictatorship of the proletariat is another name for the violence of the democratic explosion itself (iek 2007, xxx) he quips. He goes on to justify the execution of Louis XVI as a usurper of the general will (unlike the revolutionary avant-garde), arguing that he should not be accorded a trial by a revolutionary court because such a trial would de facto legitimise the rule of the king as a legal entity. iek quotes Robespierre:
Proposing to put Louis on trial, in whatever way that could be done, would be to regress towards royal and constitutional despotism; it is a counterrevolutionary idea, for it means putting the revolution itself in contention. In fact, if Louis can still be put on trial, then he can be acquitted; he may be innocent; what am I saying! He is presumed to be so until he has been tried. But if Louis is acquitted, if Louis can be presumed innocent, what becomes of the revolution? (iek 2007, xxx)

This is to say, that it is quite right for the revolution to guillotine the king because it is so revolutionary that according to its criteria all previous historical legal processes were illegitimate and the king (not as a person but as a virtual subject) should be put to death because his continued existence in itself places the new legal authority of the revolution into contestation. Even though in so doing the revolutionary authorities immediately reinstate a model of sovereignty effectively unchanged and merely passed from the King to the Committee of Public Safety or even to the people. A model of sovereignty that then leaves the new authority open to exactly the same critique of usurpation by a transcendental revolutionary subject which has still to arrive, both corrupting the revolution and auto-immunising itself against/for future revolution. By such a logic, the American military forces in Iraq were quite right then to execute Sadam Hussein as a symbol of an illegitimate regime swept away by the American army acting on behalf of the Iraqi people so that they would not have to do it themselves. The denition of divine violence is now becoming somewhat over-stretched. iek has long since abandoned the divine violence of the mob and has now moved on to the straight-forward justication of state terror, the more authentic

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the rebellion is, the more terrorist is its institutionalization (iek 2007, xxv) he notes, going on to salute Robespierres attempts to rewrite the calendar and the invention of the religion of the Supreme Being as radically revolutionary positions and not the foundational pantomime of inaugural state violence. iek does not say what he thinks of the Khmer Rogues imitation of these Jacobin policies. He does quote Badious Logiques des Mondes with approval (again another period of extra time would be required to respond adequately to this book although it and its reception are part of this wider tendency of Theological-Maoism that concerns me here5 ) as another theoretical reinvention of terror as the ruthless will to crush the enemy of the people to the point that, says iek, combining terror with what he calls after Badiou trust in the people. One should not be afraid to assert, as a combination of terror and trust in the people, the reactivation of one of the gures of all egalitarian revolutionary terror, the informer who denounces the culprits to the authorities (iek 2007, xxxvii). iek cites the example of the whistleblowers at Enron here, but what insane logic of equivalence and calculation is at work here when ethically-informed citizens who report nancial crimes to market regulators (surely the very agents of biopolitical administration) are likened to the terror of the cultural revolution? The informer is of course virtuous and does not care if they are informed on in turn etc. etc. etc. The logic is inexorable and endless. iek ends his by now almost openly contradictory argument with a nal swipe at the forces of biopolitics by reminding us in passing of another form of present day terror. For those who would be wary of Robespierres sincerity and virtue, he writes:
Happy we who live under cynical public-opinion manipulators, not under the sincere Muslim fundamentalists ready to fully commit themselves to their projects . . . what better proof of the ethico-political misery of our epoch whose ultimate mobilizing motif is the mistrust of virtue! Should we not afrm against such opportunist realism the simple faith in the eternal Idea of freedom which persists through all defeats, without which, as was clear to Robespierre, a revolution is just a noisy crime that destroys another crime. (iek 2007, xxxix)

Political violence is ne as long as its virtuous! Are you serious?! What sort of pathology is this? One should be suspicious of the mobilization of virtue not only because it is a historically gendered and Euro-centric term but because it is impossible to defend an idea of the purity of virtue in the face of its exercise in the real world by real un-virtuous individuals.

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I believed in what I was doing, or I was behaving pathologically are surely not defences for either suicide bombing or capital punishment! Its as if deconstruction never happened. Its as if great swathes of human experience had never happened. As the Spanish theologian and physician Michael Servetus rst said in the sixteenth century, to kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man. Such liberalism for iek is merely the administration of bare life. He states in the text Homo Sacer as the object of the Discourse of the University published in the New York Times in 2003 that todays growing rejection of death penalty is sustained by a hidden biopolitics . . . Those who assert the sacredness of life, defending it against the threat of transcendent powers which parasitize on it. This world of biopolitics leads to the prohibition against smoking, drugs, un-healthy food, unsafe sex and so on, and is the consequence of the combination of biopolitical administration and a postmodern respect for the vulnerable Other brought to extreme, of the attitude of narcissistic subjectivity which experiences itself as vulnerable, constantly exposed to a multitude of potential harassments. The two positions being one and the same thing for iek, he notes:
What the two poles share is precisely the underlying refusal of any higher Causes [such as the truth of the revolutionary will, the theological reference here is key, given that iek seems to think along with Robespierre that atheism is aristocratic], the notion that the ultimate goal of our lives is life itself. Nowhere is the complicity of these two levels clearer as in the case of the opposition to the death penalty no wonder, since (violently putting another human being to) death is, quite logically, the ultimate traumatic point of biopolitics, the politics of the administration of life. To put it in Foucauldian terms, is the abolition of death penalty not part of a certain biopolitics which considers crime as the result of social, psychological, ideological, etc., circumstances: the notion of the morally/legally responsible subject is an ideological ction whose function is to cover up the network of power relations, individuals are not responsible for the crimes they commit, so they should not be punished? Is, however, the obverse of this thesis not that those who control the circumstances control the people? (iek 2003)

Thus, the abolition of the death penalty is merely an ideological ruse to defeat the inexhaustible will of the people who otherwise would be lined up to sacrice their mere dust for the revolutionary cause. When one thinks of all the scrupulous and careful arguments that Derrida made about the deconstruction of phallogocentrism and its non-conceptual orders in the West and the frequent public and institutional pillorying

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he took for doing so, one can only wonder at how this sort of thing can pass unremarked upon in The New York Times and celebrated as the wellspring of Theory today. The reason it is allowed to pass in normative discourse is that it shares with that journalism and political culture an assurance around the question of a measurable calculation and of equivalence that has always been at the heart of the question of the justication of capital punishment. In this respect Slavoj iek and Barack Obama sing from the same hymn-sheet. Derrida says of Kants support of capital punishment: Kant [in The Metaphysics of Morals] fails, in my view, on questions that are moreover often sexual, on sex crimes pederasty, rape, bestiality to produce a principle of equivalence, and therefore of calculability . . . The question of the death penalty is not only that of the political onto-theology of sovereignty; it is also, around this calculation of an immeasurable equivalence between crime and punishment, their incommensurability, an impossible evaluation of the debt . . . the question of the principle of reason, of the interpretation of reason, as the principle of reason, and of this latter as the principle of calculability (Derrida 2004, 151). In an argument such as Kants, ieks or Obamas a strict accounting attempts to remove rationality from the exercise of the death penalty and to submit it to a predetermined calculation or machinic and irresponsible computation. This is a sum that iek and Obama seem quite comfortable with doing in their heads. And here I get to the crux of the matter. Derrida suggests in the book with Elizabeth Roudinesco, never, to my knowledge, has any philosopher, as a philosopher, in his or her own strictly and systematically philosophical discourse, never has any philosophy as such contested the legitimacy of the death penalty (Derrida 2004, 1456). He calls this the most signicant and the most stupefying also the most stupeed fact about the history of Western philosophy. This is a gesture of Derridas late writing that one might want to hold up to inspection. We see it in the text on the autobiographical animal when he says that no philosopher as a philosopher has ever taken account of the animal. This is not to say that no philosopher as a citizen or even as a writer or public person has never contested the death penalty or taken account of the animal. The language used here is most precise and I am puzzled by the insistence on the philosophical as a privileged mode of writing even though the death penalty, as a question held in store by philosophy, may be a question now put to philosophy by Derrida that philosophy as such or philosophy on its own cannot answer. However, Derrida wishes to attend to the death

Extra Time and the Death Penalties


penalty because as he puts it the abolitionist discourse, in its present state, seems to me greatly perfectible, philosophically and politically fragile, also deconstructible, if you prefer (Derrida 2004, 148). That is to say, that in rendering a properly philosophical and deconstructed (and so more-than-philosophical) defence of the abolitionist position it will be possible to strip the death penalty of its onto-theological scaffold, of the sort iek attempts to erect here around Kant (Kant himself being a proponent of the death penalty). Kant believes that he recognizes in the categorical imperative an a priori idea of pure reason in criminal law that would not be possible if the death penalty were not inscribed within it, and if it were not commanded by a jus talonis to be reinterpreted. The categorical imperative appeals to the human person, in his dignity (Wrde), as an end in himself. This dignity, says Derrida:
requires that the guilty party be punished because he is punishable, without any concern for utility, without socio-political interest of any kind. As long as the aws of such a line of argument are not made to appear from inside, in the rigour of the concept; as long as a discourse of the Kantian or Hegelian type, which claims to justify the death penalty in a principled way, without concern for interest, without reference to the least utility, is not deconstructed, we will be conned to a precarious, limited abolitionist discourse, conditioned by empirical facts and, in its essence, provisional in relation to a particular context, situated within a logic of means and ends, falling short of strict juridical rationality. (Derrida 2004, 14950)

That is to say, that for Derrida it would not be enough to cite the problematic history of revolutionary terror to counter ieks defence of the death penalty as principled or virtuous. Rather, it would be necessary to demonstrate its internal incoherence as an argument by suggesting that in relation to the distinction between self-punishment [peona naturalis] and hetero-punishment [poena forensis] in Kant the guilty party, as a citizen and a rational subject, should, understand, approve, even call for the punishment, including the ultimate penalty (as ieks Robespierre and Mao do):
This transforms all institutional and rational punishment coming from outside (forensis) into automatic and autonomous punishment or into the indiscernible connes of interior punishment (poena naturalis); the guilty party should acknowledge the reason of the sentence, he would have to acknowledge the juridical reason that gets the better of him [a raison de lui] and leads him to condemn himself to death. To follow this consequence

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to the end, the guilty party would symbolically execute the verdict himself. The execution would be like a sui-cide. There would be, for the autonomy of juridical reason, nothing but self-execution. It is as if the guilty party committed suicide. (Derrida 2004, 150)

The point for Derrida is not that this is simply suicide or conversely murder in any easy sense but that the undoing of this logic of the inside/outside and demonstrating the permeability and undecidability of Kants borders offer no easy re-instatement of other reassuring oppositional distinctions of the sort we nd in ieks argument between the kamikaze and the king. However, in the face of the intolerable stupidity and cruelty of ieks text this deconstruction may be a moot point, and it would seem that not only has no philosopher as a philosopher ever contested the legitimacy of the death penalty but that philosophy continues in certain forms to nd the resources to defend the death penalty, even to make a virtue of it. There would be much to say here about this new Political Theology which in the texts of iek, Agamben, Badiou and the reception of recent translations of Carl Schmidt is coalescing around the invention of a new Maoist onto-theology, making a point of dismissing Derrida and the deconstructive legacy (this could be demonstrated in several precise ways in relation to the iek text discussed above) in a fashion that demonstrates simultaneously both an elementary misunderstanding of the text of Derrida and an abyssal unacknowledged debt to his writing. I am not, yet, and without further reading, accusing Agamben and Badiou of producing the singular nonsense that iek does in this essay but I am putting down a marker that would wish to contest this newly arisen violent tone (virtual or actual) in contemporary so-called continental philosophy. Faced with a choice between compliance with biopolitical administration or sublimation to the will of revolutionary terror, I am reminded of the line from Nick Parks Chicken Run when Ginger, the leader of the impounded chickens, declares, we will die free chickens or die trying [to escape] and a dissident voice from the multitude replies are they the only choices? I would like to say no to the terror that polices the vital force of political dissent in western democracies; I would like to say no to any terror that opposes itself to those democracies as the presumptive avant-garde of a certain revolutionary violence; I would like to say no to the terror of an ultimately non-revolutionary and reactionary type that opposes those democracies in the name of a medieval theo-thanatology; I would like to say no to the so-called war on terror that justies depoliticisations and

Extra Time and the Death Penalties


suppressions of dissent across the globe. I want to say no to all of these things rstly because it is my democratic right to do so. I do not need a Jacobin vanguard to decide this for me. I want to say no to all of these things, secondly, because they are all un-deconstructed onto-theologies of the closed book that open themselves onto no future other than the pre-ordained ends their bloody means will have latterly justied. I do not accept the premise that the new Political Theology seems to treat so easily that the long march of history demands blood. On the contrary, history as progress requires us to imagine the possibility of revolutions without blood and of the perfectibility in principle of public institutions and of democratic structures. Perhaps, Jean-Luc Godard is right when in response to the question why dont humane people start revolutions? he offers humane people dont start revolutions they start libraries and grave yards.6 I want to say as Father Gabrielle does in Robert Bolts screenplay of The Mission that If might is right, then Love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so, but I dont have the strength to live in a world like that.7 I want to say all of this because as with Cixous, I wish to remain on the side of life and this, I think, when presented with the emergence of a new onto-thanato-theology such as this, is what it might mean to be for Derrida Today.

Cixous, Hlne (forthcoming), The Book I Do Not Write, ed. Eric Prenowitz, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques and Elizabeth Roudinesco (2004), Death Penalties, in For What Tomorrow. . . A Dialogue, trans. Jeff Fort, Stanford: Stanford University Press. McQuillan, Martin (2008), Is Deconstruction Really a Social Science? Derrida Today, 1/1, pp. 11930. Obama, Barack (2008), The Audacity of Hope, Edinburgh: Canongate Press. iek, Slavoj (2003), Homo Sacer as the object of the Discourse of the University, The New York Times, 25 September 2003. A version can be found at www.lacan.com/hsacer.htm iek, Slavoj (2007), Robespierre, or, the Divine Violence of Terror, Virtue and Terror (Revolutions): Maximilien Robespierre, London: Verso.

1. This text was rst presented at the inaugural Derrida Today conference, Macquarie University, Sydney July 2008, organized by Nicole Anderson and Nick Manseld my thanks and endless debt to them.

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2. See for example J. Hillis Millers account of Derridas institutional commitments in Dont Count Me In: Derridas Refraining, Textual Practice, Volume 21, Issue 2, June 2007, pp. 279 94. 3. See Jacques Derrida (2001), The Deaths of Roland Barthes in The Work of Mourning, ed. and trans. by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, The University of Chicago Press. 4. On this point see the difference between Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999) ed. M. McQuillan et al and the book rst published by Slavoj iek as The Fright of Real Tears: Krzystof Kieslowski Between Theory and Post Theory (London: BFI Publishing, 2001). 5. See Alain Badiou, The Logic of Worlds: Being and Event II, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Verso, 2009). 6. Jean-Luc Godard, director and writer, Notre Musique (Avventura Films, 2004). 7. Robert Bolt, screenplay, The Mission, dir. Roland Joff (Warner Brothers, 1986).

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000487

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women

Lisa Guenther
Abstract In LAnimal que donc je suis, Derrida analyzes the paradoxical use of discourses on shame and original sin to justify the human domination of other animals. In the absence of any absolute criterion for distinguishing between humans and other animals, human faultiness becomes a sign of our exclusive capacity for self-consciousness, freedom and awareness of mortality. While Derridas argument is compelling, he neglects to explore the connection between the human domination of animals and the male domination of women. Throughout LAnimal, Derrida equivocates between man and humanity, and between the biblical gures of Ish and Adam. In so doing, he repeats a gesture that he himself has insightfully criticized in other philosophers, such as Levinas. By articulating the distinctions that Derrida elides, I suggest a way of reading Genesis which avoids this difculty, but also continues Derridas project. * The animal looks at us, and we are naked before it. Thinking perhaps begins there. Derrida 2002, 397 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed g leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:7 In LAnimal que donc je suis, Derrida begins his meditation on animals with a playful recapitulation of the Fall. He describes himself standing naked and ashamed before the little female cat who follows him into the bathroom every morning and regards him with a steady

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but inscrutable gaze. What is there to be ashamed of before a cat who seems impervious to shame, oblivious to the distinction between naked and clothed? Derrida suggests that he is both [a]shamed of being as naked as an animal and also ashamed for being ashamed before this shameless animal (Derrida 2002, 373; 372). Throughout LAnimal, Derrida reects on the signicance of nakedness before the animal, and on the shame that both expresses this nakedness and disavows it, often with violent consequences for the animals who remind us of our own animality. In order to understand the full implications of shame before the animal, we need to reect on the relation between Derridas encounter with his cat and the biblical narrative upon which it plays. In what follows, I argue that Derrida irts with the narrative of original sin without fully interrogating its resources for articulating, and perhaps even disentangling, the relation between the human domination of animals and mens domination of women. By conating men in particular with humanity in general, Derrida repeats a gesture that he has insightfully criticized in other philosophers, such as Levinas and Heidegger. As a result, he is unable to follow the movement of his own analysis through the narrative of original sin towards a differentlystructured relation between humans and other animals, and between women and men. And yet, Derridas analysis of shame as both a sign of vulnerable exposure and a provocation to exploit the vulnerability of others, makes an important contribution to feminist critiques of the links between anthropocentrism and phallocentrism.1 Derrida suggests that part of what makes him ashamed before the animal is the feeling that, despite centuries of philosophical reection on the properties that separate us from other animals reason, language, politics, or even the capacity to feel shame and the desire to cover ones nakedness there is ultimately no exclusive property of the human, and no absolute separation between humans and other animals.2 This is not to say that we cannot identify meaningful differences, but rather that there is no denitive difference between humans and all other animals. Derrida makes this argument not by invoking empirical evidence of animal language, reason and so forth, but by deconstructing the opposition between naked and clothed. Precisely because they are naked without knowing it, other animals are not naked in the same sense as human beings; their nakedness does not refer to a scandalous or improper lack of clothing, but rather to their proper way of being. The animal, therefore, is not naked because it is naked (Derrida 2002, 374), in other words, because it is merely naked, without an explicit awareness of this nakedness. At least that is what is thought (Derrida

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


2002, 374). Human beings would seem to be distinctively aware of their nakedness; and yet, Derrida argues that this awareness turns on a feeling of shame which already covers the human body with cultural techniques that modify nakedness and mediate it in innumerable ways. Man . . . would only be a man to the extent that he was able to be naked, that is to say to be ashamed, to know himself to be ashamed because he is no longer naked (Derrida 2002, 374). Man only becomes aware of his nakedness at the moment when he feels the need for clothing that shame provokes, and so like the other animals, if for different reasons man is not naked even when he is naked. Derrida identies a temporal delay or contretemps between the shameful nudity of man and the shameless nudity of the animal, and he claims that this delay has only just begun doing us harm in the area of the science of good and evil (Derrida 2002, 374). This delay is expressed in the ambiguous title of the essay, which could be translated as either The animal that therefore I am (as if I were brought back to my own animality, for example, through the encounter with a cat), or The animal that therefore I follow (as if I were following the animal on an evolutionary timeline, or following in obedience and submission, or following it in order to track it down like a hunter (Derrida 2002, 380)). The double meaning of je suis functions more like a split in this context, raising the question of whether being an animal and following the animal can ever coincide, given our past and current understandings of the human-animal relation. Does not the very attempt to dene what is special about the human, or what distinguishes us from other animals, condemn us to always either following the animal or insisting that it follow us? Can I be the animal that I follow? Can I catch up with the animal that I am? These questions are complicated by the ambiguous position of woman in relation to both man and animal. When is a woman also part of man? Only when she, too, is following the animal? For the most part in LAnimal que donc je suis, Derrida analyzes the relation between man and animal as if women were simply a part of man in general. For example: In principle, with the exception of man, no animal has ever thought to clothe itself (Derrida 2002, 373). Here, homme is presumably identied with humanit. But at other points in the text, he uses the same term homme to refer to male human beings in particular. For example: [W]hy would a man be both more and less modest than a woman? (405). Later in the text, Derrida locates a place of intersection between the general singularity of the I and the general singularity of the animal, arguing that both terms gather a multiplicity under a

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single heading (Derrida 2002, 41718). But where does this leave the general singularity of man, and the sexual difference which it both articulates and obscures? In order to understand the position of the woman in relation to man and animal and in order to understand why Derrida grasps the man/animal distinction in terms of a contretemps or specically temporal delay we must read his essay alongside a text that, in many ways, inaugurates the science of good and evil: the biblical text of Genesis.

The Genesis of Sexual Difference

Genesis 1 and 2 tell and retell the story of creation; but the difference between these two narratives, and the implications of this difference for women, is striking. In Genesis 1, God creates the heavens and the earth, separating light from darkness and the land from the sea, then creating plants, celestial bodies, animals, and nally humanity [ha-adam]. In this narrative, the creation of humanity is complicated by an ambiguity between the singular and the plural, and also between the neutral human being and the sexual specication of man and woman:
So God created man [ha-adam] in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and ll the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the sh of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth (Gen 1:278, emphasis added).

Ha-adam, or the adam is created last after all the other animals, and he is created in the plural, as a they which is both male and female.3 There is a long history of biblical commentary, both Jewish and Christian, which tries to sort out whether the name Adam in this verse refers to a single man, or an androgynous person, or all of humanity, or an originary male-female couple, or some mixture of these.4 Some commentators translate Adam as earth creature (Trible 1978, 80) or even clod (Bal 1987, 113) in order to emphasise the non-specicity of this rst creature and its relation to the dust of the earth (ha-adamah) from which it was created.5 But however one reads it, the Adam of Genesis 1 cannot be simply identied with an exclusively male human being. God grants this ambiguous earth creature(s) dominion over all the animals, but does not specify what this dominion entails, nor the responsibilities that may be involved with this dominion.

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


In Genesis 2, the story of creation is told again in a completely different way. This time, ha-adam is created before the other animals, formed from the dust of the ground and placed in the garden of Eden as a kind of groundskeeper. Ha-adam still alone is commanded not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge; but immediately after giving this command, God says, It is not good that the man [ha-adam] should be alone; I will make him a helper t for him (Gen 2:18). God creates all the other animals of the world, bringing them one by one to be named by Adam; but no t helper is found among them. Finally, God puts Adam to sleep and removes a rib, fashioning another creature out of it. Upon waking, Adam says: This at last is bone of my bones and esh of my esh; she shall be called Woman [Ishah], because she was taken out of Man [Ish]. (Gen 2:23) The word Ish does not appear in the bible until a specically female human being has been created. In other words, ha-adam (translated in most English versions simply as the man) identies itself as Ish, or specically male, only after identifying this new creature as Ishah, or specically woman.6 Until the creation of Ishah, there is no mention of a specically male human being or Ish in the Bible. Therefore, Adam is not simply identical to Ish, even if after the creation of Ishah, the previously ambiguous term Adam or ha-adam will come to refer to the male human exclusively, and be attached to him as a proper name. But until the duality of male and female exist, it makes no sense to specify the human or ha-adam as male.7 This is not to say that Adam is sexually neutral, but whatever sexuality Adam has at that point cannot be determined as simple maleness. Who follows whom on this reading of Genesis 2:23? On one hand, Ish follows Ishah, since he can only be distinguished as a sexuallyspecic human being in response to a sexually-different other. But, on the other hand, the text tells us that the new creature shall be called Ishah because she was taken out of Ish not because she was taken out of Adam or ha-adam. The implication seems to be that the creation of a sexually-different human being does not leave the past untouched; rather, this new differentiation is projected back onto the pre-differentiated earth creature, such that ha-adam becomes in retrospect but only in retrospect, and only by his own account, not by Gods decree a proto-Ish. According to the human being who nds

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himself specied as male by the creation of a female, Adam will have been Ish; humanity will have been prototypically male; the woman will have followed the man. This structure of the future anterior suggests that, even if man is posited as an earlier and more originary version of humanity than woman, he acquires this status only at the price of never quite coinciding with himself as such. Man becomes himself only when he catches up with the creature who shall be called woman, the creature who will have granted him both his specicity as a male (by coming before him) and his identication with humanity in general (by coming after him and from him). In order to be rst, man must follow woman relentlessly, hunting her down in a future that never quite arrives; his desire to be rst puts him in second place, lagging forever behind the woman who would guarantee his priority. The implications of this temporal delay or contretemps between man and woman, or between man and his own humanity, for the contretemps between human and animal, are rich and complex. And yet, in his reading of Genesis in LAnimal, Derrida treats ha-adam as a specically male human being, in which case he and he alone would have named the animals, dominating them and incurring whatever faults may follow from this naming. Derrida claims (without a biblical proof text) that it is not only Adam or the sexually ambiguous earth-creature who names the animals, but also Ish preceding Ishah, man before woman (Derrida 2002, 384). He repeats this several times, identifying Ish with Adam: [God] lets Adam, he lets man, man alone, Ish without Ishah, the woman, freely call out the names (385); Ish all alone, Ish still without woman, was going to get the upper hand with respect to the animals (386). But as we have seen, Ish is not simply prior to Ishah; Ish also follows Ishah, both of whom follow the earth creature (Adam, or ha-adam) out of which two distinct, sexually-specic human beings were created. Throughout LAnimal, Derrida equivocates the distinction between Adam and Ish. For example, he writes that Adam, alias Ish, called out the animals names (390, emphasis added), and he refers to the freedom accorded Adam or Ish to name the animals (410, emphasis added). Only once does Derrida specify the animality named by Adam without immediately appending Ish to Adam, and this is with reference to Walter Benjamins analysis of the muteness and deep sadness of animals who receive their names in passivity and silence, as if it were a death sentence (Derrida 2002, 3889). And yet, the only context where it would be accurate and appropriate to say that man alone, Ish without Ishah names another creature, is when Adam/Ish names the woman Ishah (Gen.2:23), then renames her Eve upon being cast out of Eden

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


(Gen. 3:20). Woman is the only creature named by Ish preceding Ishah or Ish all alone; every other animal is named by the ambiguous earth creature, Adam, prior to the emergence of Ish as a distinctively male human being. This naming (and renaming) of the woman enables man to position himself as the one who will have named all of the animals by himself as the one who follows them, hunts them, and issues their death sentence.8 Woman is both the rst and the last creature to receive her name twice from Ish alone. And yet, the deep sadness of this woman, and her ambiguous position between human and animal, remains silent in Derridas text. Or does it? Derrida marks the proximity between woman and animal, albeit eetingly, in a number of places. For example, in his assessment of writers on animality, Derrida places more of the blame for ignoring the address of animals on men than on women; he contrasts all those males but not all those females who deny being seen by the animal, with those men and women who admit taking upon themselves the address of the animal (Derrida 2002, 382, 383; emphasis added). Derrida seems to suggest that women are more open to animals, closer to their own animality, not quite as fallen as men. This point is emphasized by the femaleness of his little pussycat, and the femaleness of the hybrid beast, Chimera, the latter of which becomes his privileged example of the animot (or animal-word) which is meant to deconstruct the opposition between human and animal, writing and nature (41315). And yet, what may rst have seemed like a compliment, as if women were more advanced in their relation to animals, could also appear like a trap, putting women on the side of the animals hunted by man. In order to follow the traces of womans ambiguous effacement from the drama of man and animal, we must situate Derridas reading of Genesis in LAnimal que donc je suis in relation to an earlier reading of the same text.

Thinking with Derrida, against Derrida

Lets return briey to Genesis 1:27, and to the humanity which is created in the image of God as both singular and plural, both male and female. There is an inherent ambiguity in this verse, which could be approached in several different ways. One could emphasise the simultaneous creation of male and female forms of humanity, as many feminist readers have done, or one could emphasise the slight syncopation between him and them, between a single male and a plurality of male and female human beings. On the latter reading, God creates both men and women in his

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own image, but with a certain priority of the singular man, a closer afnity between the collective humanity of ha-adam and the male whose proper name is later specied as Adam. In effect, this approach reads Genesis 1:27 through the lens of the creation story told in Genesis 2, as if the ambiguous earth creature were always already slightly inclined towards the masculine. Emmanuel Levinas takes this approach in his Talmudic reading entitled, And God Created Woman, arguing that the sexual specicity of woman or Ishah comes later than her existence as part of a generic, unsexed humanity. Levinas argument is not that the female follows the male, but rather that the sexual specicity of the female follows the creation of a more originary, sexually unmarked humanity. And yet, like Derrida in LAnimal, Levinas conates the ambiguous earth-creature Adam with the male Ish, claiming for the man a certain pre-eminence:
There had to be a difference that would not compromise equity, a sexual difference; and consequently, a certain pre-eminence of man, a woman arrived later and qua woman as an appendix to the human. Now we understand the lesson [of the Talmud]: Humanity cannot be thought beginning from two entirely different principles. There must be some sameness common to these others: woman has been chosen above man but has come after him: the very femininity of woman consists in this initial afterwards [aprs-coup]. (Cited in Derrida 1991a, 432)

Paradoxically, Levinas insists on a certain priority of the masculine not in order to privilege men over women (or at least, not avowedly), but in order to secure the equality of all human beings, and to prevent the marks of sexual difference from prescribing different treatment for different kinds of people. But as we have seen in our reading of Genesis 1 and 2, it makes just as much sense to argue that the masculine specicity of Ish follows after the creation of Ishah, that precisely because woman was taken from the side of ha-adam, there is a certain pre-eminence of woman, with Ishah coming rst in the genesis of sexual difference, and Ish following (almost) immediately after. My point is not that woman really did come rst, but rather that neither can be said to follow the other without producing hermeneutic incoherence. In At This Very Moment in This Work Here I Am, Derrida criticizes the logic with which Levinas attempts to secure universal equality by subordinating sexual difference to a neutral humanity. He argues that, wherever this subordination is made, humanity is simultaneously marked as pre-eminently masculine: he before he/she, son before son/daughter, father before father/mother, etc. . . How can one mark as

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


masculine the very thing said to be anterior, or even foreign, to sexual difference? (Derrida 1991a, 430). While Levinas wants to save ethics by insisting on the neutrality of humanity, he simultaneously makes a self-interested, unethical gesture, placing masculinity in command and at the beginning (the arkhe) (Derrida 1982, 73). This gesture marks the patrix of phallogocentrism in the West: the conation of humanity in general with the masculine. But precisely by subordinating the specicity of the feminine and consigning sexual difference to second place, the text of Levinas betrays the prior inuence of the feminine: Then the Work, apparently signed by the Pro-Noun He, would be dictated, aspired and inspired by the desire to make She secondary, therefore by She [Elle; later in the text, Derrida troubles the distinction between Elle and E.L., the initials of Emmanuel Levinas] (Derrida 1991a, 434). Once again, we run into the question: Who follows whom? Who is being followed, and to what end? Derridas critique of Levinas helps to shed light on his own conation of humanity with the masculine in LAnimal que donc je suis. By blurring the distinction between Adam and Ish, Derrida remains continuous with the patriarchal tradition that he critiques in Levinas and others; and yet, his text is nevertheless haunted by the excluded feminine. For example, Derrida attributes the very genesis of time to the contretemps between Ish and the animals: God lets Ish [sic] call the other living beings all on his own, give them their names in his own name, these animals that are older and younger than him, these living things that came into the world before him but were named after him, on his initiative according to the second narrative. In both cases, man is in both senses of the word after the animal. He follows him. This after, that determines a sequence, a consequence, or a persecution, is not in time, nor is it temporal; it is the very genesis of time (Derrida 2002, 386). If man is after the animal, then where or when is woman? What role, if any, does woman play in this genesis of time? In the rst Genesis narrative, all the non-human animals are created rst, and Adam (both male and female, singular and plural) follows; but in the second narrative, Adam is created rst and the other animals follow, with Ishah, the female part of man, created last (385). The least stable position in this second narrative belongs to Ish, who both follows after Ishah and also will have preceded her thanks to his own retrospective identication with Adam. By repeating Ishs (and Levinass) gesture of conating humanity with maleness, Derrida also perhaps unwittingly positions

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himself as a man who follows woman only on the condition that she appear to follow him. All the other animals get caught in this spasm of time whereby the newly-differentiated male identies himself with humanity in general and so excludes the female part of man from the naming process. They will have been named by Ish all alone, Ish still without woman (Derrida 2002, 386), and Ishah will have fallen on the side of the animals, as one of the many creatures named by Ish. If there is a genesis of time here, then perhaps it is not so much attributable to the double sense in which man (alias Ish) follows the animals and hunts or pursues them, but rather to the spasm of time whereby the newly-differentiated Ish Ish following Ishah identies himself with Adam, such that Ishah must follow him, and all the other animals must follow suit. The genesis of time would be, already within paradise, a germination of the representational logic of domination whereby the one who follows will have come rst, and the condition of his own power, or even of his emergence, will have obediently followed.

Beyond the Hunter and the Hunted

How do we interrupt the time of anthropocentric and patriarchal domination? Towards the end of LAnimal que donc je suis, Derrida issues an imperative: Ecce Animot. Behold the animal-word, look back at the animal who looks at you, this time without shame and without the shame of being ashamed: Ecce Animot. Neither a species nor a gender nor an individual, it is an irreducible living multiplicity of mortals, and rather than a double clone or a portmanteau word, a sort of monstrous hybrid, a chimera waiting to be put to death by its Bellerophon (Derrida 2002, 409). The lecture which began with the gaze of an animal now ends with the command to behold the animot. But who or what is the animot? Another domesticated animal, reined in by the human word? Or a wild hybrid beast dancing at the limits of language, provoking the human (male?) hunter, waiting to be followed or even killed? Both Derridas cat and the Chimera are female; they provide the bookends for a narrative of mans domination. The gure of Chimera both epitomizes the problem I have been tracking throughout this essay, and also seems to hold the promise of a different, non-oppositional relation between humans and other animals if not quite a different, better relation between woman and men. Chimera is a monster, a hybrid of multiple beasts: part lion, part goat, part dragon. She is dangerous, unpredictable, born of a treacherous woman and a giant, destructive

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


serpent (Derrida 2002, 409). She is followed hunted and pursued by Bellerophon, a gure to whom Derrida admits an old and ambivalent attachment (410). Like Derrida in the opening scene of this essay, standing ashamed before his shameless female cat, Bellerophon is put to shame by a group of shameless women who expose themselves in all their nakedness to the hunter in a strategy of self-defense (414). Bellerophon comes to their city in order to destroy it, and rather than attempting to counter his enormous physical strength, the women use their own nakedness against him, disarming him by exposing their bodies and offering themselves to him. The city is saved, immunized against shameful violence by the shameless self-exposure of women, a self-violation designed to stave off greater physical violence. But in the end, Bellerophon tames the animal, Pegasus, and uses him in order to trap and kill Chimera (Hesoid 319).9 Shame, it seems, only goes so far in restraining violence. Who follows whom? Who pursues whom, and to what end? The female animot may seem to follow obediently in the footsteps of her master, but is her obedience also a trap? Derrida identies (albeit ambivalently) both with the hunter Bellerophon and with Chimera herself: Chimera interests me therefore because chimerical will be my address (Derrida 2002, 410). He needs a hybrid, perhaps even monstrous discourse in order to track his way through the logic of the human domination of animals. But he risks getting tangled in his own discourse to the extent that he irts with the female animot without fully interrogating the relation between the human domination of animals and mens domination of women. To respond well to his own imperative to behold the animot, Derrida would have to face not only the female non-human animal, but also the female human animal, the creature whose ambiguous position highlights the impropriety of both man and animal. In his own words, Derrida would have to face the naked truth, if there is such a thing, of his or her sexual difference, of all their sexual differences (418). Without this critical interruption of sexual difference into discourses on the ends and beginnings of man, women and animals remain caught within a classic narrative in which the female animot both inspires a discourse on the hybrid animal, and is also hunted down by a man with the help of his tamed animal-brother. Perhaps the proper companion of the animot, the one who neither hunts nor is hunted, would be a version of the ambiguous earth creature whose dominion is characterized not by domination but by a vocation of responsible care. This companion would respond to the other animal in its unsubstitutable singularity (Derrida 2002, 378) rather than reducing

162 Lisa Guenther

it to a general singular like the animal, which effaces the plurality of differences among animals (417). A creature such as this leaves its trace in LAnimal que donc je suis in the gure of the silkworm whom Derrida welcomes on the threshold of sexual difference (404). Like the earth creature ha-adam, the silkworm is ambiguously-sexed; it spins a lament that Derrida compares to both milk and sperm. Citing his own earlier work, A Silkworm of Ones Own, Derrida marvels at
the spinning of its threads [or sons] or daughters beyond any sexual difference or rather any duality of the sexes, and even beyond any coupling. In the beginning, there was the worm which was and was not a sex, the child could see it clearly, a sex perhaps but then which one? His bestiary was starting up. (Cited in Derrida 2002, 404)

In the beginning, there was the worm: neither male nor female nor sexless, but rather imbued with a sexual difference prior to binary opposition. Ha-adam. Derrida remains fascinated by the possibility of a non-dichotomous sexual difference, a sexuality that the child sees clearly, but whose naked exposure is eventually covered over in shame. The silkworm, like Chimera, is an animot whose ambiguity promises to heal the opposition between man and woman, but also between man and animal. This promise returns again and again in Derridas writings on sexual difference. It appears in Geschlecht, in which Derrida argues that Heideggers Dasein embodies the other sexual difference (1991b, 401), prior to the fall or dispersion into opposite sexes, a predifferential, or rather a predual sexuality (387), more originary than the dyad (288). And it appears in Choreographies, which concludes with this question:
[W]hat if we were to reach, what if we were to approach here . . . the area of a relationship to the other where the code of sexual marks would no longer be discriminating? The relationship would not be a-sexual, far from it, but would be sexual otherwise: beyond the binary difference that governs the decorum of all codes, beyond the opposition feminine/masculine, beyond bi-sexuality as well, beyond homosexuality and heterosexuality which come to the same thing. (Derrida 1982, 76)

Behold the philosophers bestiary, which is marked from the beginning from before the beginning with a sexual difference that remains irreducible to the mutually-exclusive oppositions of phallocentrism and anthropocentrism.10 What better gure for this non-binary sexual difference than the ambiguous earth-creature ha-adam? And what better starting-point for the passage beyond the shame and violence engendered by Christian interpretations of Genesis than a feminist reinterpretation

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


which challenges the domination of both women and animals, both for their own sake and for the sake of the men who ultimately get caught in their own traps? The female animot may seem to follow obediently in the footsteps of her master, but this obedience is also a strategy for the renewal of embodied difference beyond the oppositions that have hitherto structured them. Thinking perhaps begins here where the female human animal interrupts the epoch of mans domination, and contests the very genesis of time.11

Bible, Revised Standard Edition, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type= DIV1&byte=1801 Adams, Carol J. (2000), The Sexual Politics of Meat: a Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, New Yorkand London: Continuum. Adler, Rachel (1998), Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, New York: Jewish Publication Society of America. Bal, Mieke (1987), Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Bellis, Alice Ogden (1994), Helpmates, Harlots, and Heroes: Womens Stories in the Hebrew Bible, Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press. Boyarin, Daniel (1995), Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Derrida, Jacques (1979), Spurs: Nietzsches Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1982), Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1991a), At This Very Moment in This Work Here I Am, in A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, ed. Peggy Kamuf, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 40539. Derrida, Jacques (1991b), Geschlecht: Sexual Difference, Ontological Difference, in A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, ed. Peggy Kamuf, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 380402. Derrida, Jacques (2002), The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow), trans. David Wills, Critical Inquiry 28 (Winter). Derrida, Jacques (2003), And Say the Animal Responded? trans. David Wills, in Zoontologies, ed. Cary Wolfe, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, Jacques (2006), Lanimal que donc je suis, Paris: Editions Galile. Derrida, Jacques and Christie V. McDonald (1982), Choreographies, Diacritics 12:2 (Summer), Cherchez la Femme: Feminist Critique/Feminine Text, pp. 6676. Hesoid (1973), Theogony: and, Works and Days, trans. Dorothea Wender, New Yorkand London: Penguin Classics. Kvam, Kristen E., Linda S. Schearing, and Valarie H. Ziegler (1999), Eve and Adam, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Levinas, Emmanuel (1994), And God Created Woman, in Nine Talmudic Readings, trans. Annette Arnowicz, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Merchant, Carolyn (1990), The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientic Revolution, New York: HarperOne. Stone, Ken (2006), The Garden of Eden and the Heterosexual Contract in Bodily Citations: Religion and Judith Butler, ed. Ellen T. Armour and Susan M. St. Ville, New York: Columbia University Press.

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Taylor, Chloe (2008), The Precarious Lives of Animals: Butler, Coetzee, and Animal Ethics, Philosophy Today 52:1. Trible, Phyllis (1978), God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Trible, Phyllis (1999), Eve and Adam: Genesis 23 Reread, in Eve and Adam, ed. Kristen E. Kvam, Linda S. Schearing, and Valarie H. Ziegler. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

1. For example, see Merchant 1990, Adams 2000, and Taylor 2008. 2. If anything, what is proper to man is his lack of propriety: [W]hat is proper to man, his superiority over and subjugation of the animal, his very becomingsubject, his historicity, his emergence out of nature, his sociality, his access to knowledge and technics, all that, everything (in a nonnite number of predicates) that is proper to man would derive from this originary fault, indeed from this default in propriety and from the imperative [il faut] that nds in it its development and resilience (Derrida 2002, 413). Derrida makes a similar argument in The Ends of Man (1982, 10936) and Spurs (1979, 8293). 3. See also Genesis 5:12: This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. / Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 4. For example, Maimonides refers to various explanations of the sages, one of which is that Adam and Eve were rst joined at the back and later separated into two creatures (Maimonides, in Kvam et al 1999, 219). Philo disambiguates the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 by arguing that Genesis 1 refers to the creation of a spiritual, non-corporeal idea of humanity made in the image of God as neither male nor female but androgynous, while Genesis 2 refers to the creation of mortal, corporeal human beings, rst male and then female (see Boyarin 1995, 3742). In the feminist literature on Genesis, Phyllis Trible argues that Until the differentiation of female and male (2:2123), adham is basically androgynous: one creature incorporating two sexes (Trible 1999, 432). Elsewhere, however, Trible argues that Adam refers to all of humanity, male and female, rather than a single androgynous creature: Ha-adam is not an original unity that is subsequently split apart by sexual division. Instead, it is the original unity that is at the same time the original differentiation. From the beginning, the word humankind is synonymous with the phrase male and female, though the components of this phrase are not synonymous with each other (Trible 1978, 18). Mieke Bal calls the Adam in Genesis 1 a sexless creature (Bal 1987, 112) rather than androgynous or bisexual, since sexuality is still to be created (113). For more detailed commentaries on Genesis 15, see Adler 1998, 111125 and Kvam et al 1999, 2240. 5. Incidentally, ha-adamah is a feminine noun in Hebrew; so ha-adam (a masculine noun) comes from ha-adamah (feminine). But we should be wary of drawing any conclusions about the gender of ha-adam as a person from the grammatical gender of the noun. To conclude that Adam is a man because ha-adam takes a masculine pronoun is just as unsound as concluding that all persons are women because, in French, la personne is a feminine noun. I thank Murray Johnston and Idit Dobbs-Weinstein for sharing this insight. 6. Incidentally, this woman is not named Eve until after the expulsion from Eden, when Adam gives her a new name to reect her fallen status and so, technically, Eve did not eat the fruit of knowledge, Ishah did.

Who Follows Whom? Derrida, Animals and Women


7. Phyllis Trible comments: Before this episode the Yahwist has used only the generic term adham. No exclusively male reference has appeared. Only within the specic creation of woman (ishah) occurs the rst specic term for man as male (ish). In other words, sexuality is simultaneous for man and woman. The sexes are interrelated and interdependent. . . The two are neither dichotomies nor duplicates (Trible 1999, 433). 8. Already, the gift of a name issues a death sentence, since the name can be separated from the singular creature to which it refers, and may therefore seem to render this creature superuous. [F]rom the moment that [a mortal existence] has a name, its name survives it. It signs its potential disappearance (Derrida 2002, 379). 9. Derrida acknowledges the taming of Pegasus (who happens to be Bellerophons half-brother), and he reects at some length on the parallel between this brotherly relation and the biblical narrative of Cain and Abel (Derrida 2002, 410), but he does not mention Bellerophons use of this tamed animal to hunt and kill Chimera. 10. These passages from Derridas earlier work on sexual difference shed light on the moments in LAnimal. . . when he refers to being faced with a cat of one or the other sex, of one and the other sex (2002, 3801). Or, again with reference to his cat: It is true that I identify it as a male or female cat. But even before that identication, I see it as this irreplaceable living being that one day enters my space, enters this place where it can encounter me, see me, even see me naked (3789). 11. Thank you to Ellen Armour, Idit Dobbs-Weinstein, Maxime Doyon and Murray Johnston and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000499

A Ghost of a Chance, After All

Laurie Johnson
Abstract Does a Postal Principle, a principle of destinerrance, hold true for computer mediated communication (CMC)? Perhaps. However, the question is not one concerning technology. Is it rather the case that we must ask, after Derrida, after all, whether destinerrance ever held true, as a principle? This paper considers the prospect that the Postal Principle was, in principle, or as a principle, an expression of a truth value from something that can not in fact, be held at all: the ghost in the machine. Drawing on a phenomenology of computer practice, the paper argues that there is greater explanatory value to be found in Derridas more recent comments on the relative exteriority of the technological apparatus (in Archive Fever and elsewhere), framing an understanding of the human body as partes extra partes. Yet it is demonstrated here that this same framing was already in place from the moment that the principle of destinerrance was rst articulated, and that a subsequent technical turn in Derridas work merely extends a framework already set in place in the earlier work (in The Post Card, for example). It is argued, then, that in articulating a Postal Principle for the purpose of guaranteeing its failure, Derrida had calculated the future trajectory and had built the logic of the calculation and of the jet words, as he calls them, into this trajectory of what I call the fantasy of the disembodied virtualm through which users of CMC project themselves into the archive of archives that the internet was bound to become. * A postscript a writing after writing to begin, if such a thing is possible: I wrote a letter to Jacques Derrida a number of years ago, too long ago, about four years ago, as it happens. I do not know if the letter ever reached him.

A Ghost of a Chance, After All


At this point, already, we must, of course, pause. When I observe that I do not know if the letter ever reached him, to whom do I refer? Jacques Derrida? The writings that bear this very name lead us to adopt caution at such a suggestion, but it is a note of caution that I would prefer to leave held in abeyance. As we seek to begin, to write in this space and in this time, the goal must be in the rst instance to not get ahead of ourselves, not yet. The simple fact remains, then, that after many years of pausing at the prospect of writing to Derrida, I had nally sought to begin a correspondence. A letter was written. It was sent. Did it arrive? I do not know. Only a few short months later, I learned the terrible news that this man to whom I had addressed this letter was gone. This news produced one certainty: the certain non-response to which Derrida refers in his funeral oration for Emmanuel Levinas (Derrida 1996a, 4). This correspondence had ceased before it began, before the rst response. The irony was not of course lost, of such a palpable proof of what Derrida himself had described in The Post Card as the fatal necessity of going astray of the letter (Derrida 1987, 66). This fatal necessity was, of course, what Derrida was describing in that work as a principle of destinerrance, of a postal principle which holds that a letter has no destination. If the letter is destined at all, it is destined to be errant. Reading The Post Card over again, one is never done being amazed at the lengths to which the work is willing to extend itself and this idea of a postal principle in order to gainsay the nal line of Jacques Lacans Seminar on The Purloined Letter: what the purloined letter, that is, the not delivered letter means is that a letter always arrives at its destination (cited in Derrida 1987, 443). The question to which the present paper addresses itself, yet without wanting to suggest that the answer should be an either/or proposition either Lacan is the facteur of truth or else Derrida is is this: does a postal principle hold true for computer mediated communication? The question might presuppose that there is a form of communication for which the postal principle undoubtedly holds true and which is capable of being differentiated from a form of communication that can be called computer mediated. In other words, the reader might suspect that by asking the question, I suggest that the potential for a postal principle to hold true for one form of communication could be established in a relative measure to another form of communication for which it is already assumed to hold true, namely, communication that predates the advent of computer mediated communication. Despite the anecdote with which this paper begins, and despite the palpable proof that it was said to have offered of the going astray of the letter, the

168 Laurie Johnson

question of the more general truth of a postal principle will be revisited but not until later in this paper, once again lest we get ahead of ourselves. My principal question and it is one that may indeed be a question of principle is simply whether the eld of communication now known generally as CMC adheres to a postal principle. First things rst, then: what are the forms of communication that we shall be calling computer mediated? The answer would seem to be self-evident: any communication that uses a computer as the medium for conveying a message: internet relay chats and instant messaging, synthetic worlds, MUDs, MOOs, e-mail; all of these, without fear of contradiction, count as CMC. What of letters written on a word processor? Now we enter a zone of contention. Surely, in word processing a letter, the computer is used as a substitute for the pen or quill, but the conveyance of the message is still via a postal service? Yet we might ask with just as much conviction whether the processes that are activated in a typical word processing program do not in fact mediate the message to some degree: I refer to such functions as the automated spell checker, auto-formatting of the letter qua letter, standardised fonts, and so on. Nevertheless, I think it would be fair to say that most scholars of CMC would be reluctant to include word processing among the activities more generally covered by their terms of reference. Certainly, a quick scan over the journals in the eld will show that there is an overabundance of articles on on-line communication but a dearth of studies into word processing or any other form of off-line document production. To avoid any charge of misrepresenting the eld covered in studies of CMC, then, we shall momentarily disregard all off-line communications in which computer-generated documents form a part. By computer mediation, then, we refer specically to the enabling technologies of the internet. Once more, then, the question, now recongured accordingly, becomes: do the technologies of the internet adhere to a principle of destinerrance? I have been working for a number of years on a phenomenology of computer practices, focusing for the most part so far on activities related to internet use, and it is within the scope of this larger project that the current speculations are framed. Curiously, the gure of Derrida has until now not featured explicitly in this project, otherwise one may quite rightly assume that I would surely have hit upon this question of a postal principle before now. Instead, the task of developing a phenomenology of internet activity has been undertaken by necessity in a highly fragmentary way, grappling with sometimes apparently contradictory facets of the internet questions

A Ghost of a Chance, After All


related to open architecture networking, the idea of virtual communities, a widespread belief in the disembodied nature of cyberspace, the notion of disinhibition, histories of the computer workstation and its peripherals, GUI design, VR aids, and so on such that the project has rarely provided opportunities to consider the work of any specic thinker in relation to these issues. If two names could be said to have loomed larger than any others in this project to date, it would be those of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. There is no doubt some irony in returning to these two gures most insistently in a project devoted to the study of a recent technological phenomenon, since it is well known that each found at least one not quite so new technology to be quite abhorrent. Heidegger, we know, believed the typewriter to be a loathsome device that tears writing from the essential realm of the hand, i.e. the realm of the word (Heidegger 1992, 81). Levinas, likewise, experienced a profound loss of ease on the telephone, as recounted by Derrida during his funeral oration:
I cannot speak of the interruption without recalling, like many among you no doubt, the anxiety of interruption that I could feel in Emmanuel Levinas when, on the telephone for example, he seemed at each moment to fear being cut off, to fear the silence or disappearance, the without-response, of the other whom he tried to call out to and hold on to with an allo, allo between each sentence, and sometimes even in midsentence. (Derrida 1996a, 7)

Nevertheless, these two gures have on occasion been crucial for my project in ways that are directly relevant to the question at hand. Using Heideggers comments on the fundamental nature of technology as a touchstone, I have argued along the way and in detail in one unpublished essay that the individuals engagement with cyberspace hinges on a fantasy of disembodiment, which I call the projection of a virtualm onto the technologies with which one is engaged in very real and directly embodied ways. What I suggest, in other words, is that the computer user must bypass the readiness to hand of the mouse, keyboard, and so on, in order to construct a fantasy of the invisible breakdown of the technology, which Heidegger posits as the creation of the unfamiliar and, in accordance, the begetting of self-awareness. Using Levinas, I have argued that the notion of the face towards which ethical responsibility is directed before all else has a crucial role in constructing a workable ethics of CMC, despite the obvious point that CMC in direct opposition to face-to-face communication. I contend that in the engagement of the user with a graphical user interface, there is an enjoinder to bypass the constructed fantasy of a breakdown of

170 Laurie Johnson

the technology, by necessity bringing my self forth, beyond the surface projected as my exterior limit (Johnson 2007, 54) and, as a result, fullling the most basic requirements of an ethical relation to the Other as it is explained by Levinas. How is this possible, and more to the point, what does any of this have to tell us about the postal principle? What the phenomenology of internet use reveals is the grand illusion of CMC, by which I mean the illusion that a computer actually mediates in communications between two or more interlocutors. At the fundamental level of the engagement of a user with the computer interface, there is no mediation on the pathway toward interlocution. This is not to say that there is nothing profound taking place: indeed, what takes place is placing itself, the taking of a place for oneself one self seemingly beyond the reach of that which is ready to hand, and seemingly, by extension, beyond ones own embodied self; all of which takes place under the fantastical illusion that one is communicating with at least one other. This phenomenon is an ultimately terrifying prospect of an uncanny encounter with oneself the ghost in the machine against which one seeks to protect oneself in advance by positing an other that is, to paraphrase Derrida in his exchanges with Levinas, like every other, wholly other. This brings me to the point at which the question of the postal principle can be raised again. As we have noted, the formulation of a postal principle directly contradicts the claim by Lacan that a letter will always arrive at its destination. As directly opposed to Lacans claim, the postal principle articulates precisely the same terms but in the negative form: a letter can always not arrive at its destination (Derrida 1987, 444). For the postal principle to hold true, then, as a principle, it still requires three objective terms in kind with Lacans original formulation: a letter, the verb to arrive, and its destination. While it is true that Derrida rigorously sub-jects these terms to the deep interrogation of a deconstructive manoeuvring throughout The Post Card, My Chances and elsewhere, it remains to be said that for this principle to hold true this principle of being destined to stray there must be an ob-ject that strays and a tra-jectory from which it is said to have strayed. This is as much as to say that for the principle to hold true, it must hold onto the A and B of the sender and receiver, these terminal points between which the letter can be considered to have been distributed. A divisibility of the mark, in other words, is thus contingent on the irreducibility of an A and a B, or of sender and receiver. I have emphasised the jet words, so to speak, in this last passage sub-ject, ob-ject, and tra-jectory to foreground the directionality, as

A Ghost of a Chance, After All


it were, of the postal principle. In My Chances, Derrida comes to terms with the postal principle in part through this gure of the throw: how can I calculate my chances in this address to you, he asks of his audience, mindful that what he sends out will always not arrive at its destination. Yet here this sending and this destination are captured by the gure of the throw, the jet words: the ob-ject is thrown and instead of destination there is only the fall, that is, where the ob-ject happens which is also one of the double meanings of arriver that is invoked in The Post Card, as it also happens to fall, where it should chance to descend from its tra-jectory. To throw is not haphazard; this is where the calculations that precede the throw are brought to bear, assigning a tra-jectory. Derrida assures us of this but then adds that the throw does involve releasing an object unto hazard, luck, or chance. In place of the destination, then, there is only where the object should fall, yet it arrives there by having been sent along a trajectory or course (Derrida 1988, 4) that originates with the hand of the thrower. This is, I submit, the directionality of the postal principle, an orientation of the throw toward which its jets propel it, so to speak, and it is a directionality that has been calculated to oppose this very term calculation here, in My Chances, by virtue of the principle that the object will always happen to fall once it is thrown. Yet in My Chances, Derrida cannot any longer overlook that other jet word so crucial to the Freudian view of the inside and the outside of the human being: pro-jection. Crucially, though, at this moment in My Chances when projection is recognised by Derrida as a movement of throwing outside and ahead of himself (Derrida 1988, 25) that which the subject is assumed to hold inside, he nevertheless avers that through the concept of projection, the scheme of the jet again provides the essential mediation between inside and outside, respecting the boundary between them (Derrida 1988, 26). By reducing pro-jection to the scheme of the jet, glossing the key differences between the prexes pro- and tra-, for example, Derrida neatly draws our attention away from the changing directionality on which the prex surely insists. Rather than a throwing toward, as in the trajectory of the object, projection involves a throwing outside and ahead, implying a movement that has no direction relative to a dened subject or object, nor any specic course from A to B. It is precisely on this concept of projection that I think the phenomenology of CMC hinges in relation to the question of the postal principle. Why? Because the level of engagement between user and interface as I have described it above can be said to constitute nothing more or less than what Freud would call a projection, except that the

172 Laurie Johnson

projection consists of a re-placement of ones whole self as wholly other, out in that place, the virtualm. In truth, I think the directionality of the users engagement with an interface is doubly pro-, outside and ahead on two counts: rst, in the bodily interaction with the technologies of the interface (a mouse, a keyboard, etc.), there is a specically prosthetic relation; second, there is the pro-jection that I have described as being required in order to get past that prosthetic grounding of the body inside the contours of the machine. Thus, in the use of the computer to communicate, we nd ourselves doubly outside and ahead of ourselves: the machinery and our embodied relation to it is prosthetic, situated as an extension of our body; and the fantasy of the disembodied virtualm arises out of a need to project ones self as whole beyond this prosthetised esh. It is thus fair to conclude that CMC fails to adhere to the postal principle, but it is also fair to say that it fails in this respect primarily in the matter of directionality. Whereas a postal principle adheres to the scheme of the jet, as it were, CMC adheres doubly to the scheme of the pro-. This is not to say that Derrida, today, is out of touch with the technologies of CMC. Reading one of his last works, on touching and Jean-Luc Nancy, we nd a detailed set of observations on the relays from keyboard, to chip, to hard drive, and to the web, at that very moment to describe how this project had stalled for seven long years, all the while stored on the computer (Derrida 2005, 286). This is writing ex-scribed as he describes it at that moment by this mystic writing pad for the digital age. Throughout the work on touching, we also nd Derrida grappling anew with the technics of the body, which is understood here, after Nancy, as always partes extra partes, parts without parts. Yet before On Touching, indeed, while this fragment of a project was left stalled on Derridas hard-drive, of course, he was working on Archive Fever, in which we nd an astonishing yet all too brief admission that E-mail is privileged by virtue of it being on the way to transforming the entire public and private space of humanity, and rst of all the limit between the private, the secret (private or public), and the public or the phenomenal (Derrida 1996b, 17). There are also some comments in the midst of this Freudian impression regarding the status of the actual and the virtual in relation to archival logic and psychoanalysis:
The topology and the nomology we have analyzed up to now were able to necessitate, as an absolutely indispensable condition, the full and effective actuality of the taking-place, the reality, as they say, of the archived event. What will become of this when we will indeed have to remove the couple

A Ghost of a Chance, After All


that opposes it to actuality, to effectivity, or to reality? Will we be obliged to continue thinking that there is no thinkable archive for the virtual? For what happens in virtual space and time? It is hardly probable, this mutation is in progress, but it will be necessary, to keep a rigorous account of this other virtuality, to abandon or restructure from top to bottom our inherited concept of the archive. (Derrida 1996b, 667)

On the way to On Touching, though, these impressions regarding the capacity of the new technologies to transform the space-time and reality of the archived event (and of everything that is demarcated by this archive, the entire public and private space of humanity) are occasional detours or deviations from the direction the work is taking toward the three principal theses in which Archive Fever culminates. Also on the way to On Touching, in Echographies of Television, Derrida takes up the challenge presented by these archival impressions: What the accelerated development of teletechnologies, of cyberspace, of the new topology of the virtual is producing is a practical deconstruction of the traditional and dominant concepts of the state and citizen (and thus of the political) as they are linked to the actuality of a territory (Derrida and Stiegler 2002, 36). He notes that this taking-place of these teletechnologies as he labels them here is delimiting a new modality of how place is thought and experienced, which amounts to a practice of deconstruction. By the time he returns to complete the work on touching, the practical implications of such observations become clearer: it is no longer the case that the technologies of cyberspace are required to deconstruct in the most pragmatic terms those concepts around which we have previously constructed a world of actualities; rather, the history of Western philosophy is seen as having been out of touch, so to speak, with touch and technology per se. The comments on word processing are therefore no mere diversion but an extension of the arguments about technicity itself. No longer the need to search for a short circuit in the archival logic at the extreme edge of new technologies, that is, in the coupling that opposes actuality to virtuality; instead, the more concrete components of the computer (the hard-drive and the keyboard) enable a demonstration of the capacity for being at once both a system of storage (or permanence) and a system of touch (or immediacy). Does this mean that Derrida has in the past two decades abandoned the concept of the postal principle? This would presume that he had previously accepted or taken hold of the principle, in order that it might be subsequently thrown away according to the new logic of CMC. We need look no further than The Post Card itself to locate a couple of

174 Laurie Johnson

observations that cast doubt on such an assumption from the outset. Early in the Envois and, indeed, at the moment that the postal principle is named as such to an unnamed correspondent, the author makes a wish to vanquish the postal principle by assembling an enormous library on a history of the post, notwithstanding a claim that the library and history are themselves sites of passage or of relay among others, stases, moments . . . and also particular representations, narrower and narrower . . . sequences, proportionally of the Great Telematic Network, the worldwide connection . . . this terrifying archive (Derrida 1987, 27). To what extent can we accept that a principle that has been named in the process of being wished away can be said to hold true? Importantly and, perhaps, most signicantly for our purposes here, what vanquishes a principle of the post is this enormous library which is itself already subject to the Great Telematic Network. Shall we say, then, that to vanquish the postal principle, it is necessary to be able to take hold of it, to situate it within an archive of the event of the post? Yet the prospect evokes the economies of scale on which such passages and relays operate, extending beyond the architecture of a library conceived in isolation, outward toward a worldwide connection. Having nominated this vast network into which all communications ultimately vanish, Derrida then ex-scribes his self by declaring on the note dated 9 June 1977, that is, the very next day:
distance myself in order to write to you. If now I am still sending you the same card, it is because I would be willing to die, to enclose myself nally in a single place that is a place, and bordered, a single word, a single name. The unique picture then would carry off my immobile, extended body . . . (Derrida 1987, 28)

How apt a description is this of the prosthetic-projected fantasy of the virtualm? Yet here it does its duty on the way to re-inscribing the postal principle: In the beginning, in principle, was the post, and I will never get over it, he afrms later in the note of the same day (Derrida 1987, 29). Perhaps, though, this was always the point of the postal principle: that it needed to be re-inscribed, in a word or in a proper name, for it to be capable of being held, let alone for it to be capable of holding true. My reading of The Post Card hinges on this idea that a postal principle was set up to be vanquished, by virtue of the fact that the initial terms by which it could be vanquished this enormous library are in principle beyond the scope of any single work, yet the principle continues to be articulated as if it holds true by virtue of a process that withdraws from the virtual and into the realm of an actual exchange, these envois.

A Ghost of a Chance, After All


Correspondence between a sender and a co-respondent thus becomes a neat analogue for this principle on the verge of failing to be grasped, of vanishing into a terrifying archive, for it can be sustained, if by nothing else, by the continual insistence of the signature, a proper name. Indeed, may we now realise that this attempt on our own part to re-inscribe the postal principle within the realm of CMC was already circumscribed by the insistence of this signature, this proper name Derrida, today? To refer back to my comments about the directionality of the postal principle, it is the proper name after all that provides a guarantee of the A and B of an exchange. Is it merely the case, then, that my question about the holding true of the postal principle in the realm of CMC is already framed by the non-response to which I refer in the opening scene of a letter that had met with the fatal necessity that the postal principle names? We could do worse than conclude on the point that by questioning Derrida, today, we seek to reinscribe the proper name through a writing that comes after writing; that is, to reinscribe that which has already been ex-scribed. Yet I am convinced the stakes are much higher than such an abysmal picture suggests. As we have observed, Derridas articulation of a postal principle was itself already calculated to fail, which is to say perchance that it was pre-destined not to arrive at its destination. Its failure is expressed, of course, in the drift toward a vast network, the worldwide connection, which amounts after all to a terrifying archive (Derrida 1987, 27). This archive of archives is, I contend, where the stakes can be found in questioning the principle of destinerrance, for it is in the daily chore of logging in to the modern worldwide connection that the scene of pre-destined non-arrival played out in the Envois and My Chances has its terrifying analogue. The ghost in the machine, which I call the fantasy of a disembodied virtualm, works by insisting on the possibility of the taking of a place for oneself out there beyond the machinery to which the body is connected, albeit partes extra partes. This is to say that the participant in CMC participates in a radical refusal to think the vast network as archive, by projecting oneself imagined whole, not in parts outside and ahead, into the breach of an interlocution, recast in ones own participatory logic as an A and a B of the exchange. In Rape and the Memex, I have recently argued that a logic of the archive has undergirded the internet from its ideational origins, yet the fantasy of disembodiment underpins the individual users engagement with cyberspace precisely to render this logic invisible. Derrida wrote of the mutation of the archive that would eventually dispense with the opposition of the virtual and the real, removing from us the necessity of the full and effective taking-place

176 Laurie Johnson

of the archived event. My claim is that the archive persists in a diffused form in CMC, but the idea of being engaged in a communicative act a fantastic idea that blinds us to the pro-sthetic relation the body has to the technologies of cyberspace leads us to already and by necessity dispense with the archival logic of our engagement with the technology and to think only of the ghost to whom we address our communications. The fantasy of the virtualm leads us, indeed, to calculate, after all, and absolutely: bypass the postal principle, guarantee its failure. How? By pro-jecting the self as wholly disembodied, outside and ahead, out there, in cyberspace, as the pre-destined target of a communicative act.

Derrida, Jacques (1987), The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1988), My Chances/ Mes Chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies, trans. Irene Harvey and Avital Ronell, in Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature, ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 132. Derrida, Jacques (1996a), Adieu, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Critical Inquiry 23, pp. 110. Derrida, Jacques (1996b), Archive Fever, trans. Eric Prenowitz, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Derrida, Jacques (2005), On Touching Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Christine Irizarry. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques, and Bernard Stiegler (2002), Echographies of Television: Filmed Interviews, trans. Jennifer Bajorek, Cambridge: Polity Press. Heidegger, Martin (1992), Parmenides, trans. Andr Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Johnson, Laurie (2007), Face-Interface, or the Prospect of a Virtual Ethics, Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, 4.1/2, pp. 4956. Johnson, Laurie (2008), Rape and the Memex, Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media. 13, http://blogs.arts.unimelb.edu.au/refractory/refractoryhome/

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000505

How Radical is Derridas Deconstructive Reading?

Gerasimos Kakoliris
Abstract The aim of my paper is to focus upon those aspects of Derridas relation to language and textual interpretation that have not been adequately dealt with by either proponents of deconstruction, who take Derrida to have effected a total revolution in the way in which we must read texts, or those critics who view deconstruction as having subverted all possible criteria for a valid interpretation leading, thus, to an anarchical textual freeplay. This inadequate approach by both proponents and critics is the result of a failure to consider Derridas deconstructive approach as enacting a process of double reading. This double reading commences with an initial stage or level which seeks to reconstruct a texts authorial intention or its vouloir dire. This initial level then prepares the text, through the identication of authorial or textual intention, for the second stage or level. At this second stage or level, which is the passage to deconstructive reading per se, the blind spots and aporias of the text are set forth. Through this focus upon the process of deconstructive reading as doubling reading, it becomes evident that deconstruction is not as revolutionary as proponents or critics have assumed. For, Derridas initial reading, or the doubling of a texts authorial or textual intention is rmly set within a traditional interpretative form. * For Jacques Derrida, the entirety of the history of western thought, and the texts produced within this tradition, with only some singular exceptions (for example, Nietzsche), are constituted by hierarchical binary oppositions. This hierarchical ordering is produced by the primacy accorded to the term of the opposition related to an originary presence, while the other term is considered as the subordinate

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member of the pair (for example, identity/difference, speech/writing, intelligible/visible, man/woman, nature/civilization, good/evil, and so on). In relation to this history, deconstructive reading, as practiced by Derrida during the 1960s and 1970s, is characterized by a specic approach through which this tradition is placed into question. The initial gesture is to reveal the latent metaphysical structure, which is represented by the presence of these hierarchical binary oppositions within these texts. From this, it then concentrates on those elements of a text which not only cannot be incorporated to the metaphysics of presence, but also disorganize it, making apparent another logic that is not of that of traditional metaphysics. According to Derrida, a metaphysical text is never homogeneous, self-identical, or never totally governed by metaphysical assumptions . Together with the dominant metaphysical model, there are counter-forces which threaten or undermine this authority (Derrida 1992, 53). More specically, Derridas claim is that the metaphysical text cannot maintain the seemingly uncrossable boundary line between the two poles of every oppositional pair (for example, remedy/poison, inside/outside, and so on) because linguistic meaning is conditioned by difference and deferral (diffrance). Every time a metaphysical author attempts to use an equivocal term (for example, the pharmakon in Plato or the supplement in Rousseau) or a binary opposition (for example, speech/writing) in one of its two senses, sooner or later, due to the differantial constitution of opposites namely the presence of the trace of the one term within the other the other meaning also comes to the fore in order to haunt the text, despite its authors intentions. The principle of diffrance is presented as working by itself tirelessly in the texts of the philosophical tradition against their authors explicit intentions. In this manner, a philosophers views do not subsist until refuted by another philosopher. They are always already refuted by language itself, which exceeds the will of authorial intention. In Of Grammatology, in the Chapter entitled The Exorbitant. Question of Method, Derrida notes that deconstructive reading situates itself in the gap between what the author commands within her text and what she does not command, that is, what takes place in her text without her will. This distance, ssure or opening is something that deconstructive reading must produce (Derrida 1976, 158; Derrida 1967a, 227). Yet, in order to produce this ssure or opening, deconstructive reading must rst reproduce what the author wants-to-say, something that requires the submission to classical

How Radical is Derridas Deconstructive Reading?


reproductive reading practices. As Derrida points out in one of his latest texts entitled To Do Justice to Freud: The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis (1991):
In a protocol that laid down certain reading positions . . . I recalled a rule of hermeneutical method that still seems to me valid for the historian of philosophy. . . namely the necessity of rst ascertaining a surface or manifest meaning . . . the necessity of gaining a good understanding, in a quasischolastic way, philologically and grammatically, by taking into account the dominant and stable conventions, of what Descartes meant on the already so difcult surface of his text, such as it is interpretable according to classical norms of reading: the necessity of gaining this understanding . . . before and in order to destabilize, wherever this is possible and if it is necessary, the authority of canonical interpretations. (Derrida 2001, 84)

The traditional reading (the reproduction of the authorial or textual intention) is then destabilised through the utilisation of all those elements that have refused to be incorporated within it, with the result that the meaning of the text is different from that which its author intends it to say. For example, in Of Grammatology, Derrida writes:
To speak of origin and zero degree in fact comments on Rousseaus declared intention [intention dclare] . . . But in spite of that declared intention, Rousseaus discourse lets itself be constrained by a complexity which always has the form of the supplement of or from the origin. His declared intention is not annulled by this but rather inscribed within a system which it no longer dominates. (Derrida 1976, 243; Derrida 1967a, 345)

Hence, the meanings produced during the rst reading of deconstructive reading become disseminated during the second reading. In other words, during the second reading the text loses its initial appearance of semantic determinacy, organized around the axis of its authorial intention, and is eventually pushed into producing a number of incompatible meanings which are undecidable, in the sense that the reader lacks any secure ground for choosing between them. In Platos Pharmacy, Derrida exhibits the way in which the text of the Phaedrus, despite Platos intention to keep the two opposite meanings of pharmakon separate namely remedy and poison ends up afrming la fois both, thus exhibiting another logic, that of both . . . and (namely, pharmakon is both remedy and poison, both benecent and malecent) (Derrida 1981, 70; Derrida 1972, 87). This, other, logic cannot be incorporated by metaphysics since it nds itself in opposition to the logic of identity and non-contradiction. This logic of the both . . . and, Derrida names the logic of supplementarity [logique

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de la supplmentarit] (Derrida 1976, 1445, 215; Derrida 1967a, 208, 308). A deconstructive reading, therefore, contains both a dominant,1 reproductive reading and a critical, productive reading. The rst reading, which Derrida calls a doubling commentary [commentaire redoublant] (Derrida, 1976, 158; Derrida 1967a, 227), nds a passage lisible and understandable, and reconstructs the determinate meaning of the passage read according to a procedure that the deconstructive reader shares with common readers. The second reading, which he calls a critical reading or an active interpretation, moves on to disseminate the meanings that the rst reading has already construed. In the Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (1992), Simon Critchley summarises deconstructions double reading, as follows:
What takes place in deconstruction is reading; and I shall argue, what distinguishes deconstruction as a textual practice is double reading2 that is to say, a reading that interlaces at least two motifs or layers of reading, most often by rst repeating what Derrida calls the dominant interpretation of a text in the guise of a commentary and second, within and through this repetition, leaving the order of commentary and opening a text up to the blind spots or ellipses within the dominant interpretation. (Critchley 1992, 23)

In this double reading or double gesture [double geste] (Derrida 1988, 21; Derrida 1990, 50), Derrida is obliged to use classical interpretative norms and practices and, at the same time, to negate their power to control a text, to thoroughly construe a text as something determinate, and to disseminate the text into a series of undecidable meanings (Abrams 1989, 44). Derridas double interpretive procedure is one which can only subvert a text from the tradition from a position in which its meaning has been held to have a high degree of determinacy. In order for a texts intentional meaning to become destabilised, the text needs to possess a certain stability so that it can be rendered determinate. However, the xity generated by this preliminary procedure is necessarily undermined by Derridas subsequent destabilization of this textual structuration of meaning which precludes the accordance of any (even relative) stability to it.3 It is this shift between the two layers of reading which reveals a tension within this procedure. Hence, despite the fact that he thinks that no communicative action or textual practice is able to prevent the dissemination of meaning a dissemination which is irreducible to polysemy (Derrida 1988, 201; Derrida 1990, 50) or despite all he says about the endless play between concepts, the ssure that diffrance

How Radical is Derridas Deconstructive Reading?


effects on the core of presence, the sign which is just a trace, or, putting it in the language of the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, despite the fact that the self-identity of the signier conceals itself unceasingly and is always on the move (Derrida 1976, 49; Derrida 1967a, 72), Derrida treats authorial or textual intention as something which can be determined univocally. This seems to ow from the necessary prerequisites of deconstruction itself. Deconstruction is installed between a texts intended meaning (its declarative layer) and the text itself (its descriptive layer). Derridas deconstructive reading repeatedly uncovers opposed meanings between what the metaphysical author (for example, Rousseau) wishes to say and what he says without wishing to say it, or between what the author declares and what the text describes without Rousseaus wishing to say it:
He declares what he wishes to say [Il dclare ce quil veut dire], that is to say that articulation and writing are a post-originary malady of language; he says or describes that which he does not wish to say [Il dit ou dcrit ce quil ne veut pas dire]: articulation and therefore the space of writing operates at the origin of language. (Derrida 1976, 229; Derrida 1967a, 326) Or Rousseau would wish [voudrait] the opposition between southern and northern in order to place a natural frontier between different types of languages. However, what he describes [dcrit] forbids us to think it . . . We must measure this gap between the description and the declaration. (Derrida 1976, 21617; Derrida 1967a, 310)4

What Rousseau declares and wishes to say is what is construed by standard reading; what the text ungovernably goes on to say, unbeknownst to the writer, is what gets disclosed by a deeper deconstructive reading. In this context, if a texts authorial intention were not xed and univocal, then it would be difcult for deconstruction to juxtapose against it contradictory elements found in the same text. Thus, contrary to the text as a whole, which Derrida treats as heterogeneous and equivocal, authorial or textual intention is presented as always possessing coherence, homogeneity and as being characterised by a lack of ambiguity. Hence, for example, in Violence and Metaphysics, Derrida explicitly declares that [w]e will refuse to sacrice the selfcoherent unity of intention [lunit dle soi de lintention] to the becoming which then would be no more than pure disorder (Derrida 1978, 84; Derrida 1967b, 125). Despite Derridas claim that the meaning

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of a text is never exhausted by the intention of its author, the way in which deconstruction treats a text during the rst reading is as if, beneath the text, runs a unifying essence known as authorial or textual intention which can be determined unequivocally. In Derridas univocal reading of a texts vouloir dire, successfully contradictory intentions are ruled out. While deconstruction concentrates on the existence of contradictory statements, there is nowhere any reference to the possibility of the existence of contradictory intentions. Derridas critical reading never questions the status of its ascription to the author of such regimented and unilinear designs. Even the division of the text into a declarative and a descriptive layer often seems forced, or even sometimes arbitrary. There are times at which Derrida exaggerates the distinction, and not only by his critical inventiveness in teasing out hidden textual implications, but also through a somewhat rigid and constraining interpretation of what the author actually means to say. Authorial intention always and everywhere is interpreted with an ungenerous literality.5 The authors failure to perceive the supplementary threads in his texts must be absolute, never partial. In No More Stories, Good or Bad: de Mans Criticisms of Derrida on Rousseau, Robert Bernasconi, an advocate of deconstruction, does not hesitate to adopt Paul de Mans characterization of Derrida as an ungracious reader: De Man is surely correct when he portrays Derrida as an ungenerous reader of Rousseau or to use de Mans own term, an ungracious reader (Bernasconi 1992, 148). For Bernasconi, in order to be able to support the distinction between what Rousseau wants to say and what Rousseau actually says, Derrida must refuse to attribute to what Rousseau wants to say statements that Rousseau clearly meant. In other words, there are passages which express Rousseaus intentions, but which Derrida nds obliged to refer simply to what Rousseau says without saying (Bernasconi 1992, 148). Moreover, Derrida not only treats the text, during its rst reading, with an ungenerous literality but also as if only one interpretation of authorial intention were possible. In the Afterword, Derrida declares, in conformity with what he thinks about language and meaning, that doubling commentary is not a moment of simple reexive recording that would transcribe the originary and true layer of a texts intentional meaning, a meaning that is univocal and self-identical (italics added) (Derrida 1988, 143; Derrida 1990, 265). However, in practice, Derrida treats the doubling of a texts authorial intention according to those terms that he denounces above. Indicative of this attitude is the fact that from his multiple readings, hesitation is completely absent. He

How Radical is Derridas Deconstructive Reading?


never examines the possibility that other interpretations of authorial intention are also possible (without being theoretically able to preclude such a possibility). The aim of this is to protect the effectiveness of the strategy of deconstruction. If Derrida accepted, even potentially, that other interpretations of a texts vouloir-dire were possible, then he could not preclude the possibility that other, non-metaphysical determinations of a texts intentional meaning could be feasible determinations that would not thus be in dire need of deconstruction. This, in turn, would affect his whole narrative about Western philosophy as logocentrism or metaphysics of presence, which is animated by the spirit of an unequivocal interpretation of the texts of the philosophical tradition, thereby depriving it of much of its credibility. Moreover, if he conceded the possibility of the existence of other plausible interpretations, either metaphysical or not (although this is something that he could not know in advance), then the deconstruction of merely one interpretation out of this potential plethora of plausible interpretations would have a far more limited signicance and effectiveness. The degree of certainty about a texts wants-to-say [vouloir-dire] that deconstruction requires, is possible only if authorial meanings are pure, solid, self-identical facts which can be used to anchor the work. However, this way of conceiving meaning is in direct opposition to deconstruction, for which, meaning is impossible to determine in terms of a xed entity or substance. An authors intention is itself a complex text, which can be debated, translated and variously interpreted.6 It is remarkable that Derrida, despite the way in which he conceives the constitution of linguistic meaning as a differential game [jeu] of signs without beginning and end,7 despite the fact that he adduces this kind of constitution in order to justify the deconstruction of authorial or textual intention, seems paradoxically to share the prejudgement that philosophical texts, at least if only at an initial level, are integrated wholes, as if the unity of the work resides in the authors all pervasive intention. However, there is, in fact, no reason why the author should not have had several mutually contradictory intentions, or why her intention may not have been somehow self-contradictory. This is actually a possibility that Derrida does not consider at all. The way in which authorial intentions appear in texts does not necessarily form a consistent whole, and it may be unwise to rest upon this assumption too heavily, particularly if one speaks, as Derrida does, about intention as only an effect. For example, in Limited Inc a b c . . . , Derrida calls for the substitution . . . of intentional effect for intention [deffet intentionnel intention] (Derrida 1988, 66; Derrida 1990, 128). Also,

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in the same text, Derrida speaks about intention as a priori (at once) diffrante: differing and deferring, in its inception [Lintention est a priori (aussi sec) diffrante] (Derrida 1988, 56; Derrida 1990, 111). So, there is absolutely no need to suppose that authorial or textual intention either does or should constitute a harmonious whole. In this sense, Derridas stance towards a texts authorial intention could be described, in practice, as juridical: anything which cannot be herded inside the enclosure of probable authorial meaning is brusquely expelled, and everything remaining within that enclosure is strictly subordinated to this single governing intention. Under such an approach, authorial indeterminacies are abolished, in order to be replaced with a stable meaning. They must be normalised. Such a doubling commentary [commentaire redoublant] (Derrida 1976, 158; Derrida 1967a, 227) of authorial or textual intention is obliged to render mutually coherent the greatest number of a works elements. Hence, it would not be exorbitant to attribute to Derrida, in his treatment of authorial or textual intention,8 the same accusations he attributes to the metaphysical tradition concerning the way in which it treats texts as unied wholes.9

Abrams, M. H. (1989), Construing and Deconstructing, Deconstruction: A Critique, ed. Rajnath, London: Macmillan. Bernasconi, Robert (1992), No More Stories, Good or Bad: de Mans Criticisms of Derrida on Rousseau, Derrida: A Critical Reader, ed. David Wood, Oxford: Blackwell. Burke, Sean (1992), The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Critchley, Simon (1992), Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, Oxford: Blackwell. Derrida, Jacques (1967a), De la Grammatologie, Paris: Les ditions de Minuit, 1967. Derrida, Jacques (1967b), Lcriture et la diffrence, Collection Essais, Paris: ditions de Seuil. Derrida, Jacques (1972a), La dissmination, Collection Essais, Paris: ditions de Seuil. Derrida, Jacques (1976), Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1978), Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass, London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (1981), Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson, London: The Athlone Press. Derrida, Jacques (1988), Limited Inc, trans. Samuel Weber, Evaston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1990), Limited Inc, Paris: Les ditions de Minuit.

How Radical is Derridas Deconstructive Reading?


Derrida, Jacques (1992), This Strange Institution Called Literature: An Interview with Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge, London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (2001), To Do Justice to Freud: The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis, The Work of Mourning, ed. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kakoliris, Gerasimos (2004), Jacques Derridas Double Deconstructive Reading: A Contradiction in Terms?, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 35: 3, pp. 28392.

1. Derrida calls this initial reading that deconstruction enacts on the text, dominant interpretation [interprtation dominante] (Derrida, 1988, 143; Derrida 1990, 265). 2. Some other critical readers of Derrida who have also described deconstructive reading as double reading are Robert Bernasconi in No More Stories, Good or Bad: de Mans Criticism of Derrida on Rousseau, 147 and M. H. Abrams in Construing and Deconstructing, 38. 3. For this contradiction, see Kakoliris 2004, 28392. 4. See also, Derrida 1976, 200; 238; 242; 245; 246 and Derrida 1967a, 286; 338; 344; 348; 349. 5. Derridas ungenerous interpretation of Rousseaus intention is also underscored by Sean Burke, who, in the Death and Return of the Author, writes: That there might be a speculative side to the Essay, that Rousseau might be asking that we chance a journey to the origin of languages, and in the expectation of discovering all sorts of things on the way, is never taken into account. Rather the text must always and everywhere be interpreted with an ungenerous, and intractable literality (Burke 1992, 146). 6. See Derrida 1988, 143; Derrida 1990, 265. 7. Derrida, in Of Grammatology, denes play as follows: One could call play the absence of the transcendental signied as limitless of play, that is to say as the destruction of ontotheology and the metaphysics of presence (Derrida 1976, 50; Derrida 1967a, 73. Also, in Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, Derrida mentions: The absence of the transcendental signied extends the domain and the play of signication innitely (Derrida 1978, 280; Derrida 1967b, 411). Strangely enough, no one of the aforementioned positions seems to have, for Derrida, any implications for the way in which he understands the doubling of authorial or textual intention by deconstructive reading during its initial phase. 8. To the question, does the doubling commentary, in practice, really differ from other traditional reconstructions of a texts authorial intentions? the answer would be rather no. Derrida seems paradoxically to agree with it: And you are right in saying that these practical implications for interpretation are not so threatening to conventional modes of reading (Derrida 1988, 147; Derrida 1990, 271). Although Derrida, in Signature, Event, Context claims that [w]riting is read; it is not the site, in the last instance, of a hermeneutic deciphering, the decoding of a meaning or truth, however, the reading-writing that the doubling commentary enacts is, in practice, clearly orientated towards such a hermeneutic deciphering or decoding that Derrida rejects (Derrida 1988, 21; Derrida 1990, 50). 9. I would like to thank Dr Peter Langford for his invaluable help.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000517

Derrida: Opposing Death Penalties1

Marguerite La Caze
Abstract Derridas purpose in Death Penalties (2004), is to show how both arguments in favour of capital punishment, exemplied by Kants, and arguments for its abolition, such as those of Beccaria, are deconstructible. He claims that never, to my knowledge, has any philosopher as a philosopher, in his or her own strictly and systematically philosophical discourse, never has any philosophy as such contested the legitimacy of the death penalty. (2004, 146) Derrida also asks how it is possible to abolish the death penalty in a way that is based on principle, that is universal and unconditional, and not because it has become not only cruel but useless, insufciently exemplary? (2004, 137) In my paper, I examine Derridas claim about the lack of systematic opposition to the death penalty on the part of philosophers and suggest an answer to his question concerning the possibility of a universal and unconditional opposition to capital punishment. * Derridas purpose in Death Penalties (2004), a dialogue with Elisabeth Roudinesco, is to show how both arguments in favour of capital punishment, exemplied by Kants argument in The Metaphysics of Morals (1996), and arguments for its abolition, such as those of Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishments (1964), are deconstructible. In the course of his discussion of arguments for the death penalty, Derrida claims that never, to my knowledge, has any philosopher as a philosopher, in his or her own strictly and systematically philosophical discourse, never has any philosophy as such contested the legitimacy of the death penalty (2004, 146). In relation to abolition, Derrida asks how it is possible to abolish the death penalty in a way that is based on principle, that is universal and unconditional, and not because it has become not only cruel but useless, insufciently exemplary? (2004, 137). The difculty

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here is his view that such an approach is itself deconstructible, thus appearing to leave the abolitionist in an untenable position. In my paper, I examine Derridas claim about the lack of systematic opposition to the death penalty on the part of philosophers and suggest an answer to his question concerning the possibility of a universal and unconditional opposition to capital punishment.

Philosophers and the Death Penalty

I will briey consider this question of philosophers lack of opposition to the death penalty. There is a surprising level of support for Derridas claim, or rather lack of counter-evidence to it. Derrida cites Plato, Kant, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx as examples of philosophers who supported the death penalty.2 Camus famously opposed capital punishment; Derridas view is that although Camus essay Reections on the Guillotine is beautiful and courageous his opposition was not part of his philosophy but rather a venture outside his philosophical system (Derrida 2004, 143).3 His argument is that capital punishment has been opposed by writers or philosophers as writers in the cases of Voltaire, Hugo, and Camus, or as jurists or legal scholars, examples being Beccaria and Robert Badinter. Victor Hugo, Derrida writes, opposed the death penalty unconditionally in the name of the inviolability of human life (Derrida 2004, 143). However, as we shall see, it is difcult to maintain an argument for unconditional abolition, according to Derrida. Derrida also notes that on the part of some philosophers there is silence on the matter, which he believes can be counted as lack of opposition. The examples he gives here are Heidegger, Sartre, and Foucault. Sartre is an interesting case because de Beauvoir argued in favour of the death penalty for Robert Brasillach (See Beauvoir, 2004). De Beauvoir and Sartre both refused to sign the petition for a pardon for Brasillach, although Camus signed due to his objection to capital punishment.4 Derrida says that even Levinas does not think opposition to the death penalty within philosophy when he discusses the issue in an interview. The Levinas quotation he refers to is: The suppression of the death penalty seems to me an essential thing for the co-existence of charity with justice (Levinas, 2001, 51). As charity is a Christian concept, Derrida believes this shows that Levinas is not criticising the death penalty using philosophical concepts (Derrida 2004, 228). In a way similar to Kant and Hegel, Derrida argues, Levinas tries to separate

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the lex talionis from revenge and make it the origin of the rational foundation of criminal justice (Derrida 2004, 146).5 Again, this might seem to be a surprising claim, yet an examination of this brief text is revealing. Levinas, in An Eye for an Eye, states that the idea of an eye for an eye really means a ne, and that it is the spirit of the biblical verse from Leviticus that matters rather than the letter (Levinas 1990, 147). He remarks, however, that a ne should not be considered a way out of recognising the wrong done. On the basis of this history of lack of support for abolition amongst philosophers writing as philosophers, Derrida speculates that there is something that unites philosophy with the political theology of capital punishment and the principle of sovereignty (Derrida 2004, 147). Derrida believes philosophy, politics and the idea that the capacity to risk life is proper to the human are linked by the death penalty. Thus the death penalty is considered to be what is proper to man in that human dignity transcends our condition as a living being in the thought of philosophers from Plato to Heidegger (Derrida 2004, 147). According to Derrida, capital punishment is the keystone of the onto-theologicalpolitical. He reads Kant as nding a categorical imperative and an a priori idea of pure reason in criminal law that would not be possible if the death penalty were not inscribed within it (Derrida 2004, 148).6 Derrida argues that the death penalty is the consequence of an alliance between a religious message and the sovereignty of a state (Derrida 2004, 144). He discusses this connection with religion through the gures of Socrates, Jesus Christ, Al-Hallaj and Joan of Arc (Derrida 2002b). He sees the theologico-political power over life and death as the essence of sovereign power (Derrida 2002b, 34). What these four gures, who were put to death, have in common is that they hear the voice of God and so the truth unmediated by earthly representation. In doing so, they challenge the authority of the state. Derrida does not mention philosophers who argue for the death penalty in particular cases. De Beauvoirs essay on Brasillach (de Beauvoir 2004) is an example of this position, as is Arendts support for the death penalty for Eichmann (Arendt 1994). Of course, if their arguments for these particular cases are successful, then they must apply to other similar cases. Thus Derridas contention that philosophers historically have not opposed capital punishment gains further support. Now I must turn to the philosophical questions concerning the deconstructibility of pro-capital punishment and abolitionist arguments.

Derrida: Opposing Death Penalties


The Deconstructibility of Pro-Capital Punishment Arguments

Derridas primary example of an argument in favour of the death penalty is Kants in The Doctrine of Right (Kant 1996). Here Kant argues that the death penalty must be applied strictly as a matter of justice, not to achieve any other ends. Derrida says we need to deconstruct Kants argument precisely because it is not a utilitarian one, for otherwise abolitionist discourse would be restricted to empirical considerations. Thus we should begin by examining these distinctions: 1. The distinction between internal or self-inicted punishments, (poena naturalis) and external punishments that are carried out by society (poena forensis) in Kant. 2. The distinction between other and self-punishment. According to Derrida, Kant believes that the guilty person should understand, approve, even call for the punishment, including capital punishment. I should note that Kant does not claim that we will our punishment; pure reason subjects us to the law but it is impossible to will to be punished (Kant 1996, 6; 335). However, Derrida says he does not mean that execution becomes suicide for Kant, but that a whole series of distinctions must be questioned: interior and exterior, self and other punishment, execution and suicide or murder. Derrida argues with regard to these distinctions that we cannot distinguish a pure immune law uncontaminated by desires for revenge, interests and passions (Derrida 2004, 150). It is difcult to see why self-punishment has a special relation to our passions. Nevertheless the more general point that punishment is linked to our passions, and some of our worst ones, such as the desire for vengeance, is highly relevant. 3. Kants interpretation of lex talionis (1996, 472) is closer to the Jewish and Roman traditions than an evangelical one, according to Derrida. In the case of murder, Kant supposes that killing the perpetrator is a suitable punishment. Derrida notes that Kant fails to give a principle of equivalent punishment for sex crimes, for example, pederasty, rape, and bestiality. As he argues, the principle of an eye for an eye completely breaks down when Kant attempts to apply it to these cases. Kant asks how we can punish crimes that it would be a crime against humanity to punish in a similar way? He concludes that the punishment for rape and pederasty should be castration, and that for bestiality should be expulsion from society, as the criminal has in that case made themselves unworthy

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of society (Kant 1996, 6; 363). The criminal is punished in terms of the spirit of the crimes rather than in a literally corresponding way because these crimes are against humanity. Likewise, the idea that someone who tortures should be punished by torture is absurd, and suggests that there is something wrong with the principle itself. Kant says that If . . . he has committed murder he must die (Kant 1996, 6; 333). Moreover, anyone who commits murder, orders it, or is an accomplice in it must suffer death (Kant 1996, 6; 334). This is the only way to make the punishment sufciently similar to the crime, Kant argues.7 Yet Kant undermines the idea of commensurability by allowing the death penalty for crimes against the state (Kant 1996, 6; 320). He does not delineate the acts which are high treason, although an attack on a head of state is an obvious example: Any attempt whatsoever at this is high treason (proditio eminens), and whoever commits such treason must be punished by nothing less than death for attempting to destroy his fatherland (parricida) (Kant 1996, 6; 320). Derrida draws our attention to another idea in Kant that whatever harm I do to others I do also to myself. Kant says very emphatically: If you insult him, you insult yourself; if you steal from him, you steal from yourself; if you strike him, you strike yourself; if you kill him, you kill yourself (Kant 1996, 6; 332). Kant explains what he means through the example of theft. When someone steals from another, they make everyones property insecure, and when the lex talionis is applied, they also lose the security of their own property through imprisonment. Derrida further suggests that Kant tries to remove calculation from reason by giving a non-consequentialist justication of punishment while simultaneously submitting it to calculation through the lex talionis (Derrida 2004, 1512). Kant is committed to avoiding the calculations involved in concerns with utility and happiness in his justication for punishment yet has to enter into calculations concerning appropriate punishments. 4. Derrida believes we should also question the sovereigns traditional exemption from the death penalty (Derrida 2004, 152), which Kant supports. Kant says that the execution of a sovereign is even worse than murder because while his murder is regarded as only an exception to the rule that the people makes its maxim, his execution must be regarded as a complete overturning of the principles of the relation between a sovereign and his people . . . so that violence is elevated above the most sacred rights brazenly and in accordance with principle (Kant 1996, 6; 322). Derridas

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assertion of the need to question this exception is based on the inconsistency of having such an exception. He links this sovereign exception to the possibility of bringing leaders in general to trial, and notes that there seems to be a connection between the trials of heads of state and the rejection of the death penalty in international criminal trials. The implication is that once the death penalty is not considered, it becomes possible to try sovereigns for crimes. 5. Finally, and most importantly, Derrida points to an inconsistency in Kants application of the idea of respect for persons, which Kant claims is compatible with the death penalty (Derrida 2004, 15052).8 Kant believes that we can respect a person and execute them by avoiding barbaric punishments. In contrast, Derrida points out that we cannot show there is no cruelty in the death penalty. Kants inconsistency on this point needs to be emphasised. He argues in The Doctrine of Virtue that there are some punishments that dishonour humanity itself due to their cruelty (Kant 1996, 6; 463). These, he says, are worse than the loss of life or possessions and cause spectators to feel shame. Furthermore, he states that we should never break out into complete contempt and denial of any worth to a vicious human being; for on this supposition he could never be improved, and this is not consistent with the idea of a human being, who as such (as a moral being) can never lose entirely his predisposition to the good (Kant 1996, 6; 464). If we take this idea seriously, then capital punishment is not consistent with the idea of a human being, because it both denies that a human being can improve and deprives them of the possibility of so improving. Perhaps it can also be shown that the death penalty itself is cruel, and that to take someones life away is cruel. Much more could be said concerning the deconstructibility of Kants argument. For the moment it is sufcient to show that there are serious difculties with the attempt to provide principled support for the death penalty. Are there similar difculties with opposition to it?

The Deconstructibility of Abolitionist Discourse

According to Derrida, abolitionist discourse is also deconstructible. In Beccarias work, (1964), for example, abolition is conditional because he allows so many exceptions to the suspension of the death penalty, making it dependent on peace and order in society (Derrida 2004, 149).

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Furthermore, rather than denouncing the injustice of the death penalty, Beccaria argues it is unnecessary and ineffective as it is not cruel or repetitive enough to serve as a deterrent compared to a life of forced labour. Beccaria also argues that the death penalty cannot be a right because no-one would willingly give others the authority to kill them (Beccaria 1964, 45), an argument that Kant dismisses as a sophistry (1996, 6; 335). Conditional abolition is only concerned with issues such as the execution of the innocent, mistakes in the form of execution, whether capital punishment works as a deterrent, the psychological effect on the executioners, bias in sentencing, the expense involved, and so on.9 Unconditional abolition must be against the death penalty tout court. Furthermore, Derrida argues that abolitionism in general is deconstructible because respect for life or the prohibition on killing is not upheld in wars, for example. It is limited to national law and to a national territory during peacetime (Derrida 2004, 152).10 This is most obvious in Beccaria, where he allows that in times of conict or disorder, the death penalty may be necessary. Yet ordinarily killing in war does not take the form of execution, although war may sometimes provide a cover for such practices. It might be concluded that the problem is unsolvable, if it is accepted that some wars and therefore killing are necessary and if it is believed that that possibility is inconsistent with opposition to capital punishment. Capital punishment can be distinguished from the states power to wage war as war involves the risk of being killed, not a decision to execute. A military leader does not have the power over life and death but only to put soldiers at risk. Another idea is that one must uphold the absolute sanctity of life to be properly against the death penalty. This line of thinking could suggest that one must also be against abortion, euthanasia and be a complete pacist to count as a principled abolitionist for Derrida. More convincing, perhaps, is the view that one must have a principled way of distinguishing capital punishment from these other cases.11 I will return to this point in the nal section. Derridas view is that such distinctions as between war and peace, civil and international war, terrorism, war and humanitarian operations are lacking in clarity so that the abolitionist argument, in so far as it is based on a prohibition on killing, is undermined (Derrida 2004, 1523). He claries the point by noting that cursory killing and supposedly legitimate self-defence may be authorised in such contexts. Cursory killing, understood as extra-judicial killings, is a form of execution without trial, and thus unconditional abolition would necessitate being

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opposed to these as well. Legitimate self-defense, if legitimate, need not be opposed. Derrida wishes to distinguish some state-sanctioned killings from the death penalty strictly speaking. Thus, the Shoah, Derrida argues, cannot be understood in relation to the death penalty, because there was no semblance of legality, such as a trial. Nor can the Shoah be thought of as punishment for a crime. It may also be wrong to speak of the death penalty when there is no ofcial announcement, as that is required by European law (Derrida 2004, 154). Countries wish to retain the right to invoke the death penalty in certain particular cases and circumstances, and this is why, Derrida argues, many international declarations concerning a right to life are only advisory and recommend that the death penalty be an exception or should be practised according to certain procedures (Derrida 2004, 153). This is another sense in which opposition to the death penalty is conditional, in that even those countries that do not have it do not dare to proscribe it in other countries and bow to the authority of those states who practise it. In the next section I examine unconditional opposition to the death penalty.

Unconditional Opposition to the Death Penalty

Derrida begins his discussion of capital punishment by stating that unless we elaborate an abolitionist discourse based on unconditional principles, beyond the problems of purpose, exemplarity, utility, and even the right to life we will not be able to prevent the return of the death penalty (Derrida 2004, 137). Derrida contrasts the unconditional with the limited, convenient, provisional, conditional and conditioned (Derrida 2004, 149). As I noted above, the relevant unconditional principles here would not be based on the right to life or sanctity of life because that would not distinguish capital punishment from other forms of killing that we may consider acceptable in certain circumstances, such as euthanasia and some killing in war. Universal also means applicable in all countries for Derrida so we are not only opposed to it in our own country.12 In addition, capital punishment must be opposed on the basis of injustice rather than other contingent categories such as its ineffectiveness as a deterrent. Derrida believes that the death penalty was abolished in Europe more because people felt it was not necessary as a deterrent than on principled grounds (Derrida 2004, 137). In Peine de mort et souverainet, Derrida discusses the seeming contradiction between the biblical commandment Thou shalt not kill and the judgements that recommend a death penalty for transgressions

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against the commandments. This inconsistency can only be avoided by making a distinction between murder or assassination as killing outside the law and legal killing according to the law (Derrida 2002b, 247). Thus the distinction is not between life and death but between two ways of killing. In Death Penalties Derrida notes that historically, the Catholic Church has been in favour of the death penalty, for example, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Donoso Corts. Now, however, the Catholic Church campaigns against it (Zwartz 2008). Corts connects capital punishment with a history of blood sacrice within which the death penalty is a form of expiation. Derrida also argues that the elimination of the death penalty for political crimes such as treason as contrasted with criminal law leads directly to its universal abolition. Corts and Kant both see in such abolition the elimination of criminal law (Derrida 2004, 142). He is also thinking that many secular governments perhaps all have a strong religious element and this is connected to the death penalty. For example, Derrida observes that the US has a JudeoChristian culture (Derrida 2004, 138). One cannot begin to think about the theologico-political without thinking about the death penalty, Derrida says, because capital punishment is less a phenomenon or article of criminal law than, in this tradition, the quasi-transcendental condition of criminal law and of law in general (Derrida 2004, 145). Derrida says that capital punishment is the condition of possibility of law, it is internal (included), one punishment among others, although more severe; and external (excluded): a foundation, a condition of possibility, an origin, a non-serial exemplarity, hyperbolic, more and other than a penalty (Derrida 2004, 142). The death penalty seems more and other than a mere penalty, I would say, because it destroys the agent. The principled abolitionist must oppose the view that law, even criminal law, necessarily involves the death penalty, the possibility of its ultimate sanction. According to Derrida, we have to take on this paradoxical status of abolitionism in order to formulate a consistent abolitionism. This will involve a history of blood as part of a history of the exception (i.e. the right to suspend the law) and a history of cruelty. Cruelty can be psychic cruelty, understood as pleasure taken in suffering, in Derridas view.13 Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) reads No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the death penalty can be opposed on the grounds that it is cruel. However, it seems to me that this is another form of conditional opposition to the death penalty, as proponents could respond either that the death penalty, in the form of lethal injection, say,

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is not cruel, or that once a non-cruel method has been devised then there is no reason to be against capital punishment.14 Of course, another way to argue, as I suggested earlier, is to show that death or being killed or being deprived of life is cruel in itself. Sovereignty, according to Derrida, is dened by this possibility of making a decision over the life or death of subjects (thus being above the law) or the ability to make an exception for itself (Derrida 2004, 144). He believes that to properly question the death penalty we need also to question the sovereignty of the sovereign: one cannot again place the death penalty in question in a radical, principled, unconditional way without contesting or limiting the sovereignty of the sovereign (Derrida 2004, 144). The implication is that the power of the sovereign over life or death has to be taken away in order to ensure that the death penalty cannot be invoked by them. Questioning the power of life and death, the states monopoly on violence (Derrida 2002a, 268) is to question sovereignty.15 He believes that sovereignty is questioned in Europe, writing all the old states of Europe . . . have at the same time abolished the death penalty and begun an ambiguous process that, without putting an end to nation-state sovereignty, exposes it in any case to an unprecedented crisis or puts it back in question (Derrida 2002a, 262). Abolishing the death penalty limits the sovereignty of the state to some extent. In the case of democracies, Derrida notes that sovereign power can be transferred to the people (Derrida 2004, 144). In the US, the constitutional right to bear arms undermines the states monopoly on violence. In this case, Derrida might suggest that this transfer of the right to violence transfers sovereign power to the people and makes it more likely that they kill others. One could consistently argue that sovereignty should be limited in this respect in the case of both the state and individuals. In Psychoanalysis Searches the State of its Soul, Derrida simply refers to an unconditional without sovereignty, and thus without cruelty, which is no doubt a very difcult thing to think and links it to other impossibles such as hospitality, the gift, and forgiveness (Derrida 2002a, 276). Thus he indicates that unconditional abolition has a similar structure to these other unconditionals. How does unconditional abolition compare to other unconditional concepts such as unconditional hospitality or forgiveness (Derrida 2001)? It is difcult to see how in the case of capital punishment the conditional can temper the unconditional as it does in the case of hospitality by limiting it, for example. That approach would imply that we should accept the death penalty in some cases. This appears to be an unwelcome implication

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for Derrida, given his opposition to the death penalty. The idea of negotiation between the two that he advocates in relation to ethics and politics, for example, is problematic as this would also mean accepting some forms or cases of capital punishment (Derrida 2002c). Unconditional abolition and the death penalty do not stand in the same relation as unconditional hospitality and forgiveness do to conditional hospitality and forgiveness. In these cases, both have the same aim, albeit in a limited form in the conditional case. Unconditional abolition and the death penalty are opposites. Unconditional abolition and conditional abolition are also not precisely parallel in that unconditional abolition is not self-deconstructing in the same way as hospitality. Unconditional abolition of capital punishment could co-exist with limited sovereignty whereas unconditional hospitality undermines sovereignty and thus the conditions for hospitality. Limiting sovereignty does not destroy it. States may have a great deal of sovereignty without allowing the death penalty. Conditional abolition may still allow the death penalty, which is much more serious than hospitality being limited in some ways. Derridas arguments for the impossibility of unconditional abolition of the death penalty are not conclusive. It seems to have more potential for principled support than an unconditional hospitality or forgiveness.16 Sovereignty can be limited, opposition can be universal and include assassinations and executions without trial, and capital punishment can be distinguished from killing in just wars. It does not have to be based on a sanctity of life argument; respect for human life, as Derrida realises, could give us a sufcient principle to distinguish these cases (Derrida 2002c, 3089). A principled upholding of respect for the dignity of life can be developed into a consistent argument against all instances of capital punishment. Furthermore, questioning the power over life and death in the case of capital punishment does not necessitate abandoning the sovereignty of the state altogether. Elizabeth Roudinesco suggests that the abolition of the death penalty obliges forgiveness (Derrida 2004, 161). She also adds that we should not dismiss criminals as inhuman. However, although a capacity for forgiveness may make people more likely to be against the death penalty, the abolition of it does not entail the forgiveness of all who commit capital crimes. Derrida essentially agrees with this view, because he says that forgiveness is on a different level from the political or legal (Derrida 2004, 162). One should note Arendts connection of forgiveness and punishment in The Human Condition, where she states that what cannot be punished cannot be forgiven (Arendt 1998, 241). Derrida comments on this link in To Forgive (Caputo 2001, 31), saying that the only

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place where forgiveness is part of the law is in the sovereigns right to grant clemency. Otherwise forgiveness and punishment are of two distinct orders. I think that even in this case the sovereign does not have to forgive when they pardon. Perhaps a better way of thinking about this issue of the kind of attitudes involved in abolition is that abolishing the death penalty involves renouncing revenge. While Kant tries to separate capital punishment from revenge, Derridas suggestion that such a separation is tenuous at best is well-founded (Derrida 2004, 150). De Beauvoir is remarkably honest in connecting the death penalty with desires for revenge (Derrida 2004, 247).17 We should also reconsider the punishment of life in prison, Roudinesco proposes (Derrida 2004, 161). I believe she is right to recommend that concern about the death penalty should be related to concern about prison reform, punishment, and justice in general. Opposition to the death penalty should include opposition to targeted assassinations, linked to opposition to killing for political purposes, and tied to efforts to limit killing in war. Unconditional abolition should be universal, so held to apply in all countries and should question both state sovereignty over life and death and the power of non-state actors to choose the death of others in such cases as assassination and terrorist killings. Unconditional abolition does not have to be opposed to all killing, such as killing in self-defence or killing in wars. The deconstructibility of unconditional abolition is a contingent rather than a necessary one.

Arendt, Hannah (1994), Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, New York: Penguin. Arendt, Hannah (1998), The Human Condition, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Beccaria, Cesare (1964), Of Crimes and Punishments, The Column of Infamy, Allessandro Manzoni, trans. by Kenelm Forster and Jane Grigson. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 4552. Bernasconi, Robert (2002), A Love that is Stronger than Death: Sacrice in the Thought of Levinas, Heidegger, and Bloch, Angelaki, 7:2, pp. 916. Blumenthal, Ralph (2007), Not the Killer, but Still Facing a Date with the Executioner, New York Times, 30 August. Camus, Albert (1960), Reections on the Guillotine, Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, trans. Justin OBrien, New York: Knopf, pp. 175234. Caputo, John; Dooley, Mark and Michael J. Scanlon (eds) (2001), Questioning God, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. De Beauvoir, Simone (2004), An Eye for an Eye, Philosophical Writings, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, pp. 24560.

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Derrida, Jacques (1992), Force of law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority, Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, eds. Drucilla Cornell, Michel Rosenfeld and David Gray Carlson, trans. Mary Quaintance, London: Routledge, pp. 367. Derrida, Jacques (2001), On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes, London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (2002a), Without Alibi, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques (2002b), Peine de mort et souverainete, Divinatio 15, pp. 1338. Derrida, Jacques (2002c), Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews, 19712001, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques and Elizabeth Roudinesco (2004), Death Penalties, For What Tomorrow: A Dialogue, trans. Jeff Fort, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp. 13965. Dow, David R. (2006), The End of Innocence, The New York Times, 16 June. Greenhouse, Linda (2008), Justices Weigh Injection Issue for Death Row, The New York Times, 8 January. Kant, Immanuel (1996), Practical Philosophy, trans. Mary J. Gregor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kaplan, Alice (2000), The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. La Caze, Marguerite (2006), The Asymmetry Between Apology and Forgiveness, Feature Article: Theory and Practice, Contemporary Political Theory 5: 4, pp. 447468. La Caze, Marguerite (2004), Not just Visitors: Cosmopolitanism, Hospitality, and Refugees, Philosophy Today, 48:3, pp. 313324. Levinas, Emmanuel (2001), Interview with Franois Poiri, Is it righteous to be?: Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas, ed. Jill Robbins, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp. 2383. Levinas, Emmanuel (1990), An Eye for an Eye, Difcult Freedom: Essays on Judaism, trans. Sen Hand, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, pp. 1468. Liptak, Adam (2007), Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate, The New York Times, 18 November. Mill, J. S. (1988), Capital Punishment, Public and Parliamentary Speeches, eds. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 26672. Plato (1999), Plato: The Collected Dialogues, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton, CA: Bollingen. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1968), The Social Contract, trans. Maurice Cranston, London: Penguin. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), United Nations General Assembly. Zwartz, Barney (2008), Spare the Bali Bombers says Catholic Church, The Age, 3 January.

1. I would like to thank audiences at the Derrida Today Conference in Sydney and the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy Conference in Montral for helpful comments and questions, as well as Damian Cox for discussion of an earlier version. I am also grateful to the Australian Research Council for support during preliminary research for this paper.

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2. Derrida discusses Platos support for capital punishment in the laws in 2002b, 1923. See Plato (1999, Laws X, 907910d). Derrida also notes that Rousseau is unusual in separating sovereignty from the exercise of the condemnation of criminals. Rousseau writes: Condemnation of criminals is a right the sovereign can confer but not exercise himself (1968, 79). 3. See Camus (1960). The key phrase here is that philosophers have not opposed the death penalty qua philosophers. However, Derridas separation of Camus essay on the death penalty and his philosophical writing merits further discussion, given that his essays and literary writings are not clearly distinguishable from his philosophy. Its also odd that Derrida would make such a sharp distinction in this case. 4. See Kaplan (2000) for a discussion of Brasillachs trial. 5. Lex talionis refers to the idea of an eye for an eye, or like punishment for like crime, from Leviticus 24: 1722. Bernasconi argues that for Levinas, we can only justify killing in defense of another (2002). 6. John Stuart Mill also, disappointingly, argues against abolition (1988, 26672). 7. The idea of holding people responsible for crimes they were accomplices to is prevalent in states in the U.S. and the death penalty is used in these cases in Texas, for example (Blumenthal, 2007). 8. Derrida also raises the question of whether we know that criminals are fully responsible for their actions (2004, 152). 9. Much of the debate in the US still concerns these issues. (See Dow, 2006, Liptak, 2007, and Greenhouse, 2008, for example.) 10. Derrida also makes this point in 2002b, 23. 11. Derrida does not associate his own opposition to the death penalty with opposition to abortion, suggesting that is sometimes a Christian fundamentalist position (2004, 140). 12. This inconsistency has been noted in relation to the former and to a certain extent the current Australian governments lack of condemnation of the death penalty for the Bali bombers in Indonesia (Zwartz, 2008). 13. One could ask whether pleasure is necessarily taken in cruelty, an issue I do not have the space to discuss here. 14. Derrida mentions that some states in America decided that lethal injection was not cruel or unusual punishment (2004, 157). 15. See Force of Law (1992) for Derridas discussion of the founding violence of the state. 16. See my discussion of the workings of hospitality and forgiveness in La Caze, 2004 and 2006. 17. De Beauvoir maintains that human beings have a spiritual appetite for vengeance that is a metaphysical requirement (2000, 247).

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000529

Beside(s): Elizabeth Presa with Jacques Derrida

Dimitris Vardoulakis
Abstract This paper explores the way that Elizabeth Presas artworks respond to Jacques Derridas thought. By examining how the particularity (the beside) and its supplements (the besides) operate in Presas works, it is shown how this movement between beside and besides is also central to Derridas thought. * Barely four years after Derridas death, I was in Readings bookshop in Melbourne and I noticed that for the rst time the books on the shelf about Derrida outnumbered the books bearing Derridas name as their author. The ratio was almost two to one. Beside Derridas own writing, numerous monographs, collections of articles and introductions were waiting, like friends, even though there are no friends: perhaps because after death there can only be mourners. Besides Derridas writing, the others writings, which respond to Derrida by continuing in his aftermath, and also by discontinuing or deforming his thought. Oscillating between a derrida industry and the processes of mourning and response that constitute part of his legacy and promise, all these books showed that there is no security in advance about the tenure of the reply.1 The most that can be hoped for is the possibility of a reply, the possibility of being beside the other in such a way as to be besides the other. Beside the nite presentation of singularity inscribes, and is inscribed within, a besides its innite supplement, parergon, or diffrance, to list but a few of its names that demand still others to come. *** Beside the writing, a form. Beside the amorphous hieroglyphs on the white page, the morphe. Elizabeth Presas rst work on, about, with,

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in response to Jacques Derrida is lodged in this verbless space that the beside can institute. It is verbless not in the sense that there is a complete absence of verb a verb, an action, is always implied. It is verbless, rather, in the sense that, in the space between the amorphous and the morphe, the doer of the action is obscured, and hence the action itself loses the security of a pre-determined destination. An action without a secured agent erases its aim, remaining suspended in the interstices that names possibility. The work I have in mind here is The Four Horizons of the Page, shown in the Linden Gallery (St Kilda, Melbourne), from 28 July to 17 August, 2000 (see gure 1). Presa describes how the work came about:
This installation took as its material starting point . . . a text by Jacques Derrida entitled Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy. Part of this text was typed on a laptop computer during Derridas visit to Melbourne. Before ying to Sydney Derrida gave me part of the original text, saved on a computer disc. . . . I opened a le on the disc, the le called 10 August, and printed many copies. . . . This paper formed an undergarment for one of the paper kimonos I was to construct. . . . This installation was comprised of thousands of sheets of A4 paper with printed text, many of which were folded into fan shapes and embroidered with white silk thread. (Presa 2003, 88; 90; 93)2

Derridas back-up copy of what he was writing at that moment is taken up by Presa for the construction of a series of kimonos. The alphabets characters are no longer read but rather folded into a garment that both dresses up the text into a visual extravagance and, simultaneously, undresses it of its purpose to become a book. The folding, Presas touching of Derridas words assuming that the possessive is appropriate for an electronic back-up in a oppy disk, while noting that Presas printout challenges the straight-forwardness of such an assumption is the possibility contained in the promise of singularity, it is the enactment of that possibility. Presa beside Derrida, and also Derrida beside Presa. The verblessness of this touching disables any hierarchies in this contact. The rst is second and the second rst. Neither purely seen, nor purely read. Dressed and undressed. Side by side. Amorphous form.3 *** Besides the verbless touching between Presa and Derrida that the work enacts, there also arises a meditation on the limits of this amorphous form. The beside lets a thinking of the besides take place. This besides is gestured towards by Presa with reference to Edmond Jabs insistence

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Figure 1. Kimono from Presas exhibition The Four Horizons of the Page (2000). Source: photo by Elizabeth Presa.

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that the book is also outside itself, there is also something in addition to, besides, the real book:
These garments were doubled in deference to the book that is written twice, in the book and outside it. I wanted a sense of this double experience of the book in which page is yoked to page, like word to subjugated sign through the stitching and doubling of the sheets of paper. (Presa 2003, 94)4

Besides the book, this also applies to art. In a reading of principally Kants aesthetics as presented in the third Critique, this besides is called parergon by Derrida. In his close, attentive reading of Kants text, Derrida early on points to a fundamental indecision permeating the Kantian discourse: Common sense is constantly presupposed by the Critique, which nevertheless holds back the analysis of it (Derrida 1987, 35). In summarizing his reading of The Analytic of the Beautiful, Derrida asserts:
In the fourth and last moment of the judgment of taste (modality), the value of exemplarity appeals to common sense (Gemeinsinn). The rule of the exemplary judgment attracting universal adhesion must remain beyond all enunciation. So common sense does not have the common meaning [sens] of what we generally call common sense: it is not intellectual, not an understanding. What then is its status? Kant refuses to decide here, or even to examine (we neither want not are able to examine here) whether such a common sense exists (if there is one) as a constitutive principle of experience or else whether, this time in a regulatory and no constitutive capacity, reason commands us to produce (hervorbringen) in ourselves a common sense for more elevated ends. What remains thus suspended is the question of whether the aesthetic principle of pure taste, in as much as it requires universal adhesion, has a specic place corresponding to a power of its own, or whether it is still an idea of (practical) reason, an idea of the unanimous universal community which orients its idealizing process. As always, so long as such an idea remains on the horizon, moral law allies itself with empirical culturalism to dominate the eld. (Derrida 1987, 11516)

Judging something as beautiful exceeds its own enunciation in the sense that it is a universal judgement, shared by all. This by all is the excess and is identied with common sense, which is explicitly dissociated from the judgements of understanding. Is this beauty, then, self-subsistent, autonomous, or is it maybe that which enables, in a regulatory . . . capacity, the creation of a community? Derrida does not castigate Kant for the failure to answer this ambiguity. On the contrary, Derrida indicates that the besides as the common sense of a community nds its proper excess not in itself, but rather in the double bind that

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it instigates. The besides is allowed to appear between the autonomy or cultural empiricism that soon after Kant came to be called Romanticism and the imbuing of culture with moral value that characterized neoKantianism. There is neither an idealized work of art, nor an idealized community, but rather a labour that lets itself unfold besides this neither/ nor. This besides is both productive of common sense and produced by common sense, (if there is one). Moreover, it is important that this question arises in relation to modality. On the site of the possible, this besides is enacted in response to Kants own discourse. It is, to use Catherine Malabous phrase, another possibility, in that it does not reject or deny Kant, but rather shows what Kants own logic cannot deny as undeniable (Malabou 2006). Thus, the besides operates on at least two levels simultaneously: it unfolds in the force eld between the constitutive and the regulative as Kants double bind indicates, and at the same time it unfolds in the force eld between a constative and a performative that Derridas own response demands. The beside(s) can be discerned, perhaps, as the chiasmic relations between these two levels. *** Beside the idealized communitys culture, there is another culture. Such a culture cannot presuppose or cause an idealized we. The other one nds oneself beside is never symmetrical, analogous or assimilable:
What is proper to a culture is not to be identical to itself. Not to not have an identity, but not to be able to identify itself, to be able to say me or we; to be able to take the form of a subject only in the non-identity to itself or, if you prefer, only in the difference with itself. There is no culture or cultural identity without this difference with itself. (Derrida 1992, 9)

This is where the importance of the animal in Derridas work arises. Beside the idealized communitys culture, there is sericulture. Beside the artist, the sericulturist. Beside the human, the animal. The others unassimilable identity effects ones own self-differentiation. Presas second artwork in response to Derrida tackles this constellation of ideas. The installation A Silkroom of Ones Own (Linden Gallery, Melbourne, 28 September to 11 November 2007) makes an explicit reference to the last few pages of Derridas A Silkworm of Ones Own, where Derrida recalls how he cultivated silkworms as a child in Algeria. At one corner of the room there is an old display cabinet in which silkworms are cultivated. A veil of silk hangs in front of the large window on the other side, softening veiling the bright light (see gure 2).

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Figure 2. The silkworm cabinet photographed behind the silk veil from Presas exhibition, A Silkroom of Ones Own (2007). Source: photo by Dimitris Vardoulakis.

No possibility is entertained here that the silkworms will reproduce or represent anyones work. The silkworms are unlike the proverbial monkey who, reason had it can the monkey be allowed by reason to be referred to by a personal pronoun, a he or a she? that if it typed for an innite number of years, it would produce by accident Shakespeares works. This fable about the monkey presupposes a plenitude of reason within which the animal is assimilated. Presa and Derridas animals, and their silkworms in particular their particular silkworms, those in a boys bedroom and those in the care of an artist question this presupposition. They inscribe the irrational within the rational in such a way as to show that they can never be separated. The image here recalls the silkworm itself, as Derrida observes in Rogues:
I would be tempted to take somewhat seriously this metaphor of the cocoon . . . that objectivizes, animalizes, indeed naturalizes a nonnatural movement: reason spontaneously envelops itself in the web and threads that it itself weaves, after having itself secreted them like a silkworm. The threads

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of this web come at once to reveal and veil the unveiling of truth. This reason resembles the physis of a silkworm, which, from the inside, on its own, produces and objectivizes on the outside of the veil of naturalism and objectivism in which it will shut itself up for a time. Up until the point when the heroism of reason makes it appear, resuscitates it, and lets it be reborn. (Derrida 2005, 1301)

According to Derrida, reason animalizes itself. When reason is beside the animal, there is a reversal. Instead of the truth remaining a prerogative of reason and the animal being used as a metaphor in this context, the imagery is here reversed: reason resembles the physis of a silkworm. The animal is at the core of reasons potential. The irrational is indissociable from the rational dictating its economy of veiling and unveiling. *** Besides the animal, there is the human. The title of the exhibit A Silkroom of Ones Own could be understood as a misnomer, since a number of friends from around the world sent email messages that Presa transcribed with a pencil on the white walls of the Gallery beside Derridas own text about his silkworms. Besides the artist and the silkworms, besides Derrida and the silk veils, there are also communiqus by Geoff Bennington, Jean-Luc Nancy and Alexander Garcia Dttmann. The nature of these messages varies. For instance, on 4 November Nancy wrote:
Are you really waiting for messages oh my dear and unknown worms? I am not sure you really wait. I think you wait for silk to write messages yourselves. . . . Id like very much to get some answer from you! If you are too busy to do that, please ask Elizabeth to do it for you!

Nancy asks: can an animal wait? This question echoes Derridas own question: can an animal feel shame? And it also echoes Augustine, who in the Confessions describes God as that one from whom one waits for an answer but who never replies. But besides these echoes, there is also a humorous edge, coupled with affection for Derrida, Presa, and the silkworms themselves.5 The registers proliferate. The silkworms are for Dttmann a prompt to think about sexuality. The message dated 10 October asks:
What if the decision to be gay were a decision to remain virginal like a silk worm? A lubricant consisting of silk worms that gather around the erect penis and allow it to slide in and out while causing additional excitement by moving in a sinuous manner.

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Figure 3. The transcribed messages on the wall of the gallery from Presa, A Silkroom of Ones Own (2007). Source: photo by Dimitris Vardoulakis.

Dttmann asks: If to call someone virginal is to inscribe their sexual activity within a moral register, can an animal not be virginal? Can a gay person not be virginal when in touch with the animalistic sexual desire? And besides this problematic, Dttmann also asks Presa: will you allow such a discourse to be written on the white virginal? walls of the gallery space? And more generally, can an artwork not be virginal?6 Benningtons messages are different from Nancys or Dttmanns. Presa had rst contacted Bennington, writing on 17 September:
As the translator of Veils I was wondering if you would be interested in writing, a little each day or every few days, something that could become part of the installation? The idea being that as the translator of the original French text into English, you would, in effect, continue the process of translation as a form of generation. . . like the silkworms themselves!

The challenge, then, was to continue the text, to continue the process of translation, to let the besides unfold. Remember that, besides being a translator, Bennington had also collaborated with Derrida, most notably in the writing of the parallel text of the volume that was

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published in English with the title Jacques Derrida.7 The singularity of Benningtons proximity and distance, his being beside Derrida, allowed for a different kind of email message to be transmitted. The more confessional tone betrays a brotherly attachment to Derrida, leading suddenly on 15 October to a confession about Benningtons own brother:
(Haunted all weekend, in the mental box or cabinet where the silkworms are constantly eating and growing, by a childhood memory of a drawing (made by my elder brother, I think: the affect is one of slightly jealous admiration rather than pride, at any rate) in a school exercise book, illustrating the circuit of mulberry, silkworm and sh pond in China. Little semi-iconic drawings of trees fertilized by sh manure from the bottom of the pond; worms fed on mulberry leaves; sh fed on shed worm skins; farmers who eat sh and spin silk. . . There were arrows to indicate the cycle. The outsize penciled silkworm on the stick branch of the tree was, I seem to remember, smiling broadly. This seemed so very satisfying, this circuit, so self-satisfying and self-satised, almost smug, like the drawn silkworm itself.)

Can one help but feel a jealous admiration for such a writing that has the capacity to unfold its possibility besides other writings the drawing of childhood memory, Derridas writing, and so on and in that way extend the other writings possibilities? Beside writing, more writing. Beside the beside always a besides. Can one help but feel part of this beside(s) which is both the condition of the possibility and the enactment of writing itself? *** Beside(s) names two neither/nors. The ontological status of the relation it allows is neither regulatory nor constitutive. And this relation itself is presented as neither constative nor as performative. This double matrix allows the interplay between singularity and repetition. Is this a circuit that is, in Benningtons words, so self-satisfying and self-satised, almost smug, like the drawn silkworm itself? My contention is that Presas works are anything but. I agree with Kevin Hart, that Presas work neither construes Derrida as a cultural monument nor ironizes the process of monumentalizing (Hart 2001, 174). Self-satisfaction would entail a halting of the neither/nors. It would be a state in which the neither/nors would function as a justication, an alibi, or a grounding of a libidinal economy. Conversely, residing on the beside(s), Presas works are restless; restlessly dissatised, because restlessly probing, they resist nality. They persist because they are without a horizon of expectation, other than the promise of their persistence.

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Bennington, Geoffrey and Jacques Derrida (1993), Jacques Derrida, trans. Geoffrey Bennington, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hantai, Simon, with Jean Luc Nancy and Jacques Derrida (2001), Connaissance des textes: Lecture dun manuscrit illisible, Paris: Editions Galilee. Hart, Kevin (2001), Horizons and Fold: Elizabeth Presa, Contretemps, 2: 1715. Jabs, Edmond (1990), The Book of Resemblances, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop, Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1987), The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1992), The Other Heading: Reections on Todays Europe, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Dttmann, Alexander Garcia (2005), Verwisch die Spuren: Mit Bildern und Arbeiten von Elizabeth Presa, Zurich: diaphanes. Malabou, Catherine (2006), Another Possibility, Research in Phenomenology, 36: 11529. Presa, Elizabeth. (2003), The Poetics of the Book in Sculpture, Ph.D. dissertation, submitted at the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University, awarded in 2003.

1. And the same point can be made about all the Derrida conference, symposia and seminars in the past few years. The presented paper was written for one such conference, titled Derrida Today (Sydney, 1012 July 2008), organized by the editors of the homonymous journal, Nicole Anderson and Nick Manseld. 2. I believe that the detail about Derrida ying to Sydney is wrong; in fact Derrida was ying to Auckland, New Zealand. 3. Derridas own response to The Four Horizons of the Page can be found in his postscript to Hantai with Nancy and Derrida, Connaissance des textes. 4. The passages in quotation marks are from Jabs, The Book of Resemblances, 13. 5. Nancy has written on two other exhibitions by Presa. See http://elizabethpresa. com/nancy.pdf and http://elizabethpresa.com/marie.pdf (date accessed 10 May 2008). 6. Dttmann has written the catalogue for another exhibition by Presa; see http://elizabethpresa.com/alex.pdf. But, even more importantly, in Verwisch die Spuren Dttmann has used Presa works as a prompt for his own reections. 7. Bennington and Derrida, Jacques Derrida (1993). See References.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000530

Friendships Future: Derridas Promising Thought

Blair McDonald
Abstract This paper will address the political and ethical ramications of Derridas concern for friendship in relation to his concerns with the future of democracy, rights of hospitality and cosmopolitics. The questions addressed read as follows: Is there a way we can get beyond this stance which not only consolidates a friendship of the perhaps with a friendship of the promise, but also implicates their consolidation with the very future of what we today call democracy? Is there a way in which we can substantiate something more than a romanticized call for a future integration of friendship and democracy while avoiding the pitfalls of on one hand, substantiating a model of friendship for politics or, on the other, offering a disguised and nave return to a metaphysics of friendship as the saving grace of social unity? Through a close reading of the conclusion to Politics of Friendship as well as his concerns with friendship in Spectres of Marx and Rogues: Two Essays on Reason it will be argued that Derridas insistence on the future of friendship is bound up with the notion of an ethical promise to the thought of friendship as the condition for its political and ethical relevance.

* This paper takes its point of departure from the concluding claims of Jacques Derridas Politics of Friendship where he ends with what appears to be an anticipatory lament for the future of friendship and the future of democracy (Derrida 1994; Derrida 1997). In these nal pages where perhaps we had anticipated moving one step closer to the truth and meaning of friendship and further, a better understanding of its place within the political and ethical concerns of our current constellation of democracy, he proceeds to mark friendships future as one of both promise and uncertainty. Ironically while the Politics of

Friendships Future: Derridas Promising Thought


Friendship comes as Derridas remarkably thorough consideration of the philosophical heritage of the question of friendship and fraternity from Aristotle to Cicero, Michel Montaigne to Carl Schmitt, as much as he closes in on the question of friendship, in the end, the political and ethical future of the question remains open-ended. Derrida leaves us uncertain as to what remains of the concept, how we might address something like the future of friendship and what responsibility one ought to have with regards to the politics and ethics of this futural demand. In what follows I will address the political and ethical ramications of Derridas concern for friendship in order to ask the following: Is there a way we can get beyond this stance which not only consolidates a friendship of the perhaps with a friendship of the promise, but also implicates their consolidation with the very future of what we today call democracy? Is there a way in which we can substantiate something more than a romanticized call for a future integration of friendship and democracy while avoiding the pitfalls of on one hand, substantiating a model of friendship for politics or, on the other, offering a disguised and nave return to a metaphysics of friendship as the saving grace of social unity? Let us return to the particular reverberations of his call to a friendship of the promise which dominates his conclusion in the Politics of Friendship, and appears here and there in his work Spectres of Marx (Derrida 1994) and Rogues (Derrida 2005). Recalling the concluding chapter of Politics of Friendship, For the First Time in the History of Humanity, Derrida envisions a new ethics of social relations modeled on an experience of freedom and equality that is capable of respectfully experiencing that friendship which would at last be just, just beyond the law, and measured up against its measurelessness (Derrida 1997, 306). Yet it is not clear how the values which govern this particular ethical viewpoint could serve as a model for a coming politics. Furthermore we are left uncertain how this call to immeasurability coalesces with the question of political commonality since Derridas work leaves open the ways in which a concept of friendship could promise and thus found a new conception of political relations, and further, what kind of subject would correspond to this characterisation. While Derrida argues that what haunts the canon of discourses on friendship is the impossibility of not only delimiting what is friendship but who corresponds to the gure of the friend, it remains impossible to gleam from his work who this future friend-subject is; how it could be thought in conjunction with a new thought and experience of democracy, and where the relation between justice, friendship and politics can be made possible independent of an aporetic social economy.

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Although it can be argued that Derrida does not offer a foundational politics, and in general, this has never been the impetus of that manner of critique known as deconstruction, this should not discredit its political and ethical implications. The question remains how to account for this apparent absence of a foundational model of political and ethical relations. Rather than accuse Derrida of this blind spot it should be asked if it is precisely the impossibility of translating a discourse on friendship into a political model that remains the irreconcilable yet inexhaustible tension of his work. Derridas work troubles the very question of place and presence thereby frustrating a certain metaphysical conception of politics and a certain language of presence. His work does not suggest a homogeneous or substantive conception of either the political and/or friendship that would offer a programme for arriving once and for all within reach of a just social order. While he insists on the promise of a democracy-friendship to come, the content of this promise is productively unclear. This is because such a prescriptive would be at odds with the singular nature of responsibility which comes under threat through a normative politics. Derridas work successfully fails to provide a foundation whereby a new political programme can be thought because a platform of this kind cannot be reconciled with the manner in which he conceptualizes justice, the decision, responsibility, the event and the singularity of ethical invention. For instance we recall that Derrida concludes Politics of Friendship with the argument that there is nothing present as such that one could delimit as democracy. That is to say, the time and space of what goes by the name democracy exists as a non-presentable concept. Here he states what I argue ought to be read as the anchoring dilemma of his entire work on friendship. He writes:
Democracy remains to come; this is its essence in so far as it remains: not only will it remain indenitely perfectible, hence always insufcient and future, but, belonging to the time of the promise, it will always remain, in each of its future times, to come: even when there is democracy, it never exists, it is never present, it remains the theme of a non-presentable concept. (Derrida 1997, 306)

First what ought to be claried is that I interpret Derrida to suggest that this to come of democracy does not anticipate a coming presence of total democracy that would nally live up to and be equal to the term. Derrida offers no such hope. This is not to say that his conception of democracy is hopeless. It is rather that the messianic impulse of his notion of democracy neither anticipates nor expects an eventual and total coming to presence of democracy at a future time. Second, what

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must be understood about the to come is not only its innite deferral and dispersed sense of being-such but its inexhaustible quality. When Derrida writes in so far as it remains he is making a claim on the inexhaustible coming of the concept; in other words, that it is not of the order of accomplishment is not its defeat, but what remains, even if what remains is not of the order of either a substantial or metaphysical nature. No practise of democracy could assume the truth of democracy in action or in word. The promise of its future is not a question of its becoming present, but the question of a becoming present which complicates the time and space in which we assume something to be thought present, arrived and thus there as such. In Simon Critchleys essay The Others Decision in Me (What are the Politics of Friendship?) the question of friendship is framed less around the concern of presentability qua concept and more on the question of friendship beyond the limits of fraternity and the reconciliation of ethics and politics. The difculty for Critchley is not so much Derridas concern with fraternity but the place of friendship in political affairs and how their interrelation situates the questions of ethics (Critchley 1999, 254). Like Derrida, while Critchley recognizes the lack of closure in Derridas work he is unable to imagine the passage between an ethics and politics that could serve as a foundation for a coming political or a politics that could best serve this negotiation without becoming normative and thus hostile to the question of particularity in friendship. Unable to resolve the problem of normativity he asks: Must it be the case that there is no passage assur between friendship and politics, no deduction from one to the other, no foundation? (Critchley 1999, 272). Without a solution to this question of foundation, Critchley returns to the question of the decision as the means by which a new ethics and politics of friendship can be attempted. He asks: might there not be a hiatus between friendship and politics that far from inducing paralysis or resignation, perhaps opens onto an experience of the political decision? (Critchley 1999, 272). Although Critchley remains uncertain as to what the decisive content of this passage between friendship and politics would be, he attempts to unite a Levinasian conception of ethics as hospitality with Derridas suggestion that the ethical is at one and the same time the performance of a political intervention. Rightly Critchley asks whether it is possible for an ethics of hospitality to found the sphere of politics and law (Critchley 1999, 275), but is unable to overcome the difculty of deducing a politics from an ethics. Nonetheless Critchleys conclusions are important because instead of nding a passage out of this said paralysis he claims that the very indeterminacy of the passage from ethics to politics entails

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that the taking of a political decision must be a response to the utter singularity of a particular and inexhaustible context (Critchley 1999, 276). What makes deconstruction an innovative political gesture is this precise re-working of the time and space in which it is said to act. If a time and space of the ethics and politics of deconstruction are to be thought it could only ever be thought foundational during the time in which its enactment is performed. It is foundational without imposing a generalized norm or posing as an arbitrary and unquestioned response to circumstances. The innite ethical demand of deconstruction arises, Critchley reminds us, as a response to a singular context and calls forth the invention of a political decision (Critchley 1999, 276). By engaging with the problem of decision, Critchley argues that this allows us to think and act out what could be deemed the political differently. Under this framework, politics is to be thought as the art of response to the singular demand of the other, a demand that arises in a particular context although the innite demand cannot simply be reduced to its context and calls for political invention, for creation (Critchley 1999, 276). For Critchley the test of a deconstructive practise of the political would be its negotiation between an ethics and politics and the invention of a singular relation to the other which pivots on the question of the decision. This for him unites the singular regard for the other under a mode of action whose criterion he identies as universal. Critchleys work is insightful because it stresses the aporetic nature of this negotiation and insists on the singularity of the decision and context in which subjects act in relation to others, without, I add, seeking a normative model of politics. Much like Derrida, Critchley afrms that such an ethics of response nds itself at odds with a normative politics. While Critchley says nothing on the place of the promise in Derridas conception of friendship and politics, the point for him remains that friendship can only form the basis of political commonality once it afrms the irreconcilability of ethics and politics. While Derrida would agree with Critchleys insistence on the singularity of the decision, we recall that Derrida also suggests that we think the concept of friendship on the basis of its tension between commonality and non-commonality. Derrida insists that we refuse to resolve the tension into the order of the common nor of its opposite, neither appurtenance nor non-appurtenance, sharing or non-sharing, proximity or distance, the outside or the inside, or in a word, he suggests community (Derrida 1997, 298). Yet the question remains as to what new semantic purchase is enacted by way of this refusal. It remains unclear what the identity of the concept of friendship would come to gure as outside of these established binary logics. Elizabeth

Friendships Future: Derridas Promising Thought


Weber makes a similar concern. For Weber, Derridas work is not merely a question of philosophical subtleties (Weber 2007, 327). Given the complications of presence his work performs, she suggests that it is an attempt to move within and out of words, discourses and institutions that delimit in what ways a politics can be thought possible. Derridas work, she offers, persists in uncovering the fragility and aporias of this suspension, its risks and its change, the potential of its arrivance and aimance, by meticulously deconstructing the layers of asserted foundation, origin or presence that have been heaped onto it (Weber 2007, 329). In agreement with Weber, this is the inexhaustible burden and test for the implementation of a politics thought and experienced otherwise. Similarly, stressing the productive nature of this struggle, Richard Beardsworth argues that Derridas philosophy only makes sense politically in terms of the relation between aporia and decision and neither in terms of a unilateral philosophy of decision: in other words, aporia is the very locus in which the political force of deconstruction is to be found (Thomas 2006, 158). The contradictions Derrida draws out of things are an afrmation of faith in the concepts survival and enrichment. In this way John Caputo is right to contend that there is no non-ironic way to express the faith in deconstruction, no expression of a deconstructive faith that does not preserve an ironic distance between itself and the name in which it puts its faith (Caputo 2004, 56). If there is indeed a cohesive politics at work in Derridas texts it is still of the order of work but not a work that solicits a return to a metaphysical conception of the political whereby the truth of its arrival and presence are thought under eventual expectation. Instead Derrida ought to be read as trying to locate a passage between the demand and the promise to improve democracy while remaining hospitable to its becoming different; to work within the impossibilities of its becoming present while all the while engaged with its perfectibility in the absence of its total accomplishment. Inherent to democracy and I contend any concept for that matter, is its inexhaustible, non-appropriable difference at the limit of its said identity. This is the paradoxical register of Derridas account. Whether it be a question of democracy or friendship there is no identity without a relation of the non-identical, withinwithout, as the structuring and un-structurable limit of what it is. Derrida does not say it like this, but his point is that democracy remains something of a question that marks its essence. From this perspective it is the concepts difference to and within itself which means that its identity qua concept remains resistant to the very foreclosure it is out to delimit. While there are parallels to be drawn between the

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non-presentability of democracy and friendship, Derrida does not delimit what is friendship as such, or suggest that it is a non-presentable concept in the same way that he discusses democracy in Politics of Friendship or hospitality in Hostipitality (Derrida 2000). It comes as no surprise that Derridas work on hospitality began in his seminars in Paris in 1996 two years after his book on friendship and three years after his book on Marx because there are parallels in how he problematises both friendship and hospitality. For instance, in his essay Hostipitality Derridas questions the time and space of its arrival and the knowledge of what it is that we can say, independent of its practice, is hospitality. He arrives at the conclusion, [W]e do not know what hospitality is [Nous ne savons pas ce que cest que lhospitalit]. Not yet. Not yet, but will we ever know? Is it a question of knowledge and time? (Derrida 2000, 6). For Derrida, what makes hospitality possible is a performative contradiction insofar as it is not an object of knowledge nor something whose being-present can be delimited as such (Derrida 2000, 6). Yet this paradoxical condition in which hospitality arrives does not operate as something negative (Derrida 2000, 7). It is rather a positive and productive point of passage which the work of thought must assume as the condition of its possibility. What makes the idea of politicizing friendship problematic remains the question of not knowing what friendship is, where it is said to take place, who the friend is and what constitutes its being properly political. Without reference to Derrida, in his essay On the Multiple Senses of Democracy, Jean-Luc Nancy returns to the question of democracy to make a similar contention. He questions the future of democracy and wonders in what sense a politics can be mobilized where the thought of democracy both holds the impossibility of embodying its essence and of representing its gure (Nancy cited in McQuillan 2007, 52). While Nancy makes no discussion of the aporias of friendship his concerns must be noted for how they address the problem of advancing a future politics that lacks an impetus for totalisation and substantiation. Henceforth he argues that we must imagine a politics as the specic place of the articulation of a non-unity and of the symbolization of a non-gure and further not the demand for achieving an essence or an end of the incommensurable (Nancy cited in McQuillan 2007, 52), but rather that which is sustained by the impossibilities of commensuration which govern such concepts as justice, equality and humanity. For Nancy if a practise of politics is to be maintained, it is no longer as the place of the taking form or of the presenting of incommensurability or of some unity of origin and end, in brief of a humanity (Nancy cited in

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McQuillan 2007, 52). Like Derrida, Nancy concludes his concerns with a question: Are we equal to the task of conceiving a democracy in this way, with such a degree of intensity? (Nancy cited in McQuillan 2007, 53). While this question opens up and poses the risk of re-imagining the political as the site of the incommensurable it remains to be seen how such a politics can be put into practise, and what the nature of Nancys faith is aiming toward. Here I suggest that the intensity of Nancys question is to be read alongside Derridas frustrated attempt to imagine a politics of friendship that makes a break with theological and humanist ideologies of social unity. In a question that Derrida himself cannot come to answer he poses the following:
Is it possible without setting off loud protests on the part of militants to think and to live the gentle rigour of friendship, the law of friendship qua the experience of a certain ahumanity, in absolute separation, beyond or below the commerce of gods and man? And what politics could still be founded on this friendship which exceeds the measure of man without becoming a theologem? Would it still be a politics? (Derrida 1997, 297)

Like Nancy, Derrida entertains the possibility of separating a thinking of friendship from a humanitarian impulse and wonders whether such a divorcing can still be rendered recognisable. What is signicant about Derridas question is that it once again suggests the impossibility of divorcing friendship from its current political framework without marking a return to the religious or a humanist metaphysics. A politics of friendship imagined in separation to discourses of humanity would not take place in the space of the purely political. It would instead risk placing itself within a theologico-metaphysical tradition which would reproduce the problem of presence central to Derridas concern with discourses of political community. Consequently, the problem remains how to work within and beyond the trace of these traditions while making a call for another politics without surrendering to a salvationary messianism or a totalizing model of social relations (Derrida 1994, 94). These concerns take on an added signicance given Derridas call in Spectres of Marx for what he calls a New International. What I would like to call Derridas humanitarian intervention is his call for both a profound transformation, projected over a long term, of international law, of its concepts, and its eld of intervention (Derrida 1994, 105) and elsewhere, more specically, the imagining of a politics in divorce from current discursive underpinnings of sociopolitical belonging. The play I invoke here on the term humanitarian intervention comes about in response to Derridas discussion of the

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sometimes-productive-sometimes-hypocritical nature of forms of power and State intervention understood to be humanitarian in cause (Derrida 1994, 1047). What I am calling Derridas humanitarian intervention is his appeal for a new political imaginary, an untimely politics without status, without title and without name, barely public even if it is clandestine, without contract, out of joint, without coordination, without party, without country, without national community [International before, across, and beyond any national determination], without co-citizenship, without common belonging to a class (Derrida 1994, 1067). However the problem with Derridas claim is that form of belonging this New International would take. Here I stress the difculty of Derridas claim on the grounds that what Derrida calls for is (and we should note the invoking of friendship here) the friendship of an alliance without institution, predicated on anonymity. He writes: Barely deserving the name community, the New International belongs only to anonymity (Derrida 1994, 113). The problem remains that Derridas suggestion bears traces of the emancipatory politics which ironically, much of his work, and in general, what is most often referred to as the work of deconstruction, has always thought to displace. A politics predicated on the divorce of all forms of belonging to land, blood, nation, and religion and the making way for the rise of an anonymous political subject is not politically desirable or realistic to imagine. Further, Derridas enthusiasm for such a political imaginary sits at odds with much of his critical work on political and ethical matters. I stress this concern on the grounds that it imagines a phenomenality of the political founded under an international politics of anonymity without considering what new structures of belonging would come to operate as a result. In what sense can a new cosmopolitics, as Derrida imagines, make a clean break from the socio-political structures of belonging that have determined the political landscape thus far? Furthermore, how the question of responsibility would operate under an international politics of anonymous, uncommon, disindentied belonging is left unanswered. This is not to overlook the centrality of the question of responsibility in Derridas writings and seminars throughout his career. It is rather to suggest that, in this instance, the internationalization of responsibility as an effective obligation of political and ethical action is not properly dealt with. While cultural forms of political belonging need to be subject to critique, I argue that it would be nave to imagine an anonymous New International as a resistive force without a proper consideration of the exclusionary nature of belonging and

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how political and ethical responsibility would operate in the face of socalled anonymous relations and subjects. Of course, this point must be nuanced by recognizing the problem of the opposite scenario as well; that is, where calls to identity become the grounds for a new political imaginary. If anonymity undermines responsibility there also remains the danger in replacing anonymity with identity. Both have signicant drawbacks for negotiations of social unity. The problem here is one of limits and in what contexts these limits are to be opened and/or closed. In a more abstract sense, the question remains: What are the points were sameness and difference intersect and how can new political and ethical imaginaries accommodate their compatible and incompatible natures? In an interview with Geoff Bennington on his work on friendship, while Derrida remains optimistic that critique can lead to new forms of political imaginaries, he can only index to an uncertain future whereby a reinvention of the classical political concepts would be necessary for a new conception of political alliance and therein the role of friendship. Once again invoking this call to a New International as the renewal of hope, he adds:
I think that what I try to call a New International in Spectres of Marx should go beyond this concept of the cosmopolitical strictly speaking. We have to do a lot of things, and to work of course within the space of the cosmopolitical, and an International Law that keeps alive the sovereignty of the State. There is a lot to be done within the State and in International Law that keeps alive the sovereignty of the State, thats what we call politics today, but beyond this task, which is enormous, we must think and be oriented by something which is more than cosmopolitical, more than citizenship. (Bennington and Derrida 1997)

Derrida is insistent that his work on friendship, hospitality, and democracy does not necessarily provide a new platform through which a new politics can be founded. Yet at the same time his work makes way for a rethinking of frameworks in which these concepts are understood and experienced. With regard to his conceptions of friendship and hospitality he argues that it does not automatically translate into a platform for politics because what friendship is and what hospitality is, exceeds, precisely, knowledge (Bennington and Derrida 1997). He continues, there is some type of experience, of political experience in friendship and hospitality which cannot simply be the object of theory, (Bennington and Derrida 1997) and therefore, I add, instrumentalised in such a way. What is exciting and also troubling for many is that his conception of friendship in relation to the political does not allow a coming subject to be substantiated in advance. Friendship remains

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a question that performs a relation with what comes, such that the question remains itself an engagement with what it is at the limit of what it is not and thus the very question of what comes under the sign of the foreign. This is why it is important not to separate a concern with friendship from hospitality and rather position their interrelation as what grounds its political and ethical dilemmas. Consequently and this brings us back to the tension staged earlier between the ethics and politics of sameness and difference required is a further examination of this relation between friendship and hospitality and the political and ethical implications of their integration. In conclusion the difculty here is to engage with the question of friendship as a subject of inquiry and advance a new perspective on the topic at the limit of its being delimitable as an object of theory. It remains to be seen how the work of theory can push beyond being just a call for us all to take up an ethical stance that would nally live up to an experience of this call to friendship whose foundational and presentable nature is always under question. The question remains how the to come and more than of friendship might be possible given its untranslatable, unpresentable, unknowable qualities, and what Derrida is right to suggest is its impossible basis for a generalized model of political relations. In this sense we can begin to understand why Derridas anticipatory lament is maintained on the condition of the promise. The only politics of friendship which can be advanced is not of the order of a programme and/or subject but an ethical stance that remains inexhaustibly open to the question of friendships future that is still to come as much as it is still to be created. In this sense it is much about exploring the identity of the concept, the force of its call to particularity as much as generality, and the aporias which mark their coming together. If the time, space and event-ness of friendship circulates as a persistent question in Derridas work, it is because there is an incessant demand for philosophic practice and an ethics of maintaining that the question remain as such: that the question of what it is and what can be advanced in its name remain the task of philosophy. His ethics, which we must not forget is also his faith in the promise, is one of philosophic practise, such that his meditation on friendship both testies and deepens the tradition which links philosophy with friendship and maintains the place of friendship in the very practise of philosophy. It is because of this fundamental relation that the politics of friendship must never be thought independent of the space that would allow the work of philosophy to occur. It is that friendship remains as much

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a question as a possibility which maintains its futurity. In this sense, perhaps all we are left with is the promise, as Derrida insists, to give friendship a future; to maintain the future of friendship qua concept as the condition of its survival however apolitical this may seem. Insofar as we remain hospitable to the question of friendship, however vague and romantic, in this spirit may we say and act with the faith of its possibility. Such a friendship would be one whose delity remains bound to the thought of friendship in such a way that the returning to the question would itself mark a return to friendship, in the sense of a befriending of its concern as something which one is driven to experience and/or accomplish. In this sense, may the promise of friendship remain as much its promising thought as the promise of the thought. To afrm a politics from this thought reafrms the politics of practising that which we call philosophy. It gives way to the redoubling of the question of the political and the philosophical, afrming its tension; it divides and overlaps but nonetheless afrming that this very redoubling is none other than the work of friendship, as much its home as its other.

Bennington, Geoffrey and Jacques Derrida (1997), Politics and Friendship: A Discussion with Jacques Derrida, Centre for Modern French Thought: University of Sussex, transcribed by Benjamin Noys, http://hydra.humanities. uci.edu/Derrida/pol+fr.html Caputo, John (2004), Love Among the Deconstructibles: A Response to Gregg Lambert, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 5: 2, pp. 3757. Critchley, Simon (1999), Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought, New York: Verso. Derrida, Jacques (1994), Politiques de lamitie, Paris: Galile. Derrida, Jacques (1994), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, New York: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (1997), Politics of Friendship, London: Verso. Derrida, Jacques (2000), Hostipitality, Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 5: 3, pp. 318. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. McQuillan, Martin (ed.) (2007), The Politics of Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Other of Philosophy, London: Pluto Press. Nancy, Jean-Luc (2007), On the Multiple Senses of Democracy, The Politics of Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Other of Philosophy, ed. Martin McQuillan, London: Pluto Press. Thomas, Michael (2006), The Reception of Derrida: Translation and Transformation, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Weber, Elizabeth (2007), Suspended from the Others Heartbeat, The South Atlantic Quarterly, 106: 2, pp. 32544.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000542

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx1

Nicole Pepperell
Abstract Derridas Specters of Marx asks whether and how we could inherit Marx today: whether we might nd, in a certain spirit of Marx, the critical resources to challenge resurgent liberal ideals, without this challenge assuming a dogmatic or totalitarian form. Derridas own response to this question involves a curious move: a material transformation of Marxs text, in which Derrida rst foreshadows, and then carries out, the excision of a single sentence from the pivotal passage in which Marx christens the commodity fetish. The excision subtly transforms the meaning of Marxs text and, in the process, acts out a vision of inheritance as an active, transformative performance, rather than as a passive transmission of inherited content to its heirs. In this paper, I explore the way in which Derrida foreshadows and then effects this curious elision. I highlight the distinctive understanding of transformative inheritance at the heart of Derridas text, and also pose the question of why Derrida should effect this particular transformation in the search for a certain deconstructive spirit in Marxs work. * After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in the face of the triumphalist declaration of the nal victory over communism of the market and liberal democracy, Derridas Specters of Marx poses the question of whether and how we could inherit Marx today whether we might nd, in a certain spirit of Marx, the critical resources to challenge resurgent liberal ideals, without this challenge assuming a dogmatic or totalitarian form. Derridas own response to this question involves a curious move: a material transformation of Marxs text, in which Derrida rst foreshadows, and then carries out, the excision of a single sentence from

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


the pivotal passage in which Marx christens the commodity fetish. This excision subtly transforms the meaning of Marxs text and also acts out a vision of inheritance as an active, transformative performance, rather than a transparent transmission of inherited content to its heirs (Derrida 2006, 1417; 646; 6970).2 By drawing attention to the elision, I want both to highlight the distinctive understanding of transformative inheritance at the heart of Derridas text, and also pose the question of why, in carrying out a transformative inheritance of Marx, Derrida should effect this particular transformation. To explore this problem, I rst examine some of the complex textual parallels that tacitly connect neo-liberal triumphalism with Soviet orthodoxy, and Derridas critique of Fukuyama with Marxs critique of Stirner. These parallels open onto an analysis of how the gures of impure and transformative inheritance operate as a standpoint of critique. I then turn to a more detailed examination of how Derrida rst foreshadows, and then carries out, his transformative modication of Marxs text. Finally, I analyse the stakes of this particular transformative inheritance to begin to cast some light on what Derrida attempts to excise, and what he attempts to creatively enact, from our inheritance of Marx. Reecting on how to respond to the triumphalist charge that the collapse of the Soviet Union invalidates any contemporary inheritance of Marx, Derrida rules out the simplest response: that the Soviet Union was a corruption of a true spirit of Marx a perversion or false inheritance of a communist ideal that must be differentiated from the empirical entities that proclaimed themselves to be communist. His argument here is subtle and displaced: offered in the form, not of a direct critique of this attempted defence of the communist ideal, but rather a critique of Francis Fukuyama, author of the triumphalist The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama, Derrida argues, defends liberal democracy by identifying it alternatively with its empirical manifestations or with a non-empirical counterfactual ideal. Empirically, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unravelling of centrally-planned economies are taken to ratify liberal democracy as though the empirical hegemony of liberal institutions conrms their normative superiority. At the same time, Fukuyama systematically discounts the empirical failings of liberal institutions, arguing that liberalism must not be identied with its empirical manifestations, but must rather be understood as a counterfactual ideal from which actually existing democracies and markets might deviate, without these deviations undermining the ideal itself (Derrida 2006, 712; 76; 7882).

224 Nicole Pepperell

The manifest target of this argument is Fukuyama. Yet in the dreamwork of a text saturated with references to Freud (Derrida 2006, 21819), manifest targets are haunted and overdetermined by a series of latent contents, bound together and implicated in the explicit discussion. Fukuyama serves here as a kind of residue of the day and Derridas critique of Fukuyama is also and simultaneously a critique of attempts to inherit Marx by distinguishing Marxs true spirit from the empirical realities of actually existing socialism (Derrida 2006, 10716; 12830). Derridas critique of Fukuyama, moreover, is haunted by parallels with Marxs critique of Stirner parallels through which Derrida retroactively satirises aspects of his own critique of Fukuyama, by teasing Marx for making similar moves when criticising Stirner (Derrida 2006, 1015; 1724; 17885). In this tangled text, criss-crossed with these and other internal parallels that subtly destabilise and complicate the surface discussion, the structure of the text suggests that a certain spirit of Marx already haunts Derridas critique of Fukuyama invoked even within Derridas critique of the attempt to distinguish a true spirit of Marx from various corrupt inheritances.3 What does it mean, though, to structure the text such that it seems to invoke a spirit of Marx, but to do so in the service of a critique of any attempt to invoke a true spirit of Marx? What does it mean to inherit impurely? What sort of inheritance does not proceed by means of a burial by means of an attempt to determine with certainty the location and the identity of the remains? This is the type of inheritance Derrida seeks in Specters of Marx (Derrida 2006, 12; 89; 18; 678; 1205). This repudiation of the search for a pure inheritance is bound together with an argument that critique relies on the shattering of presence on the ability to break apart the progression of time understood as a linear chain of homogeneous moments linked together in a necessary succession (Derrida 2006, 18; 2022; 45). For Derrida, the ability to break out of the chain of presents, and destabilise the apparent self-identity of the present time, is integral to the possibility of critique (Derrida 2006, 2735). Derrida links this ability with our capacity to form constellations between our own time and other times, our own generation and other generations, by recognising the implicatedness of the dead and the not yet living in any present moment. He also links this ability with technology, suggesting that new media and technological developments generate conditions in which the selfidentity of the present is increasingly difcult to assert (Derrida 2006, 63; 99). Finally, he points to what he sees as the disjointure most central

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


to Marxs own analysis: the non-identity generated by the process of exchange (Derrida 2006, 51; 2059). Derrida gathers together each of these destabilising factors under the overarching term spectrality. The category of spectrality thus captures a range of destabilising potentials that haunt any possible present and, in words Derrida cites from Hamlet, throw the time out of joint. Derrida ties the possibility of critique to this disjointure of the present borrowing, again from Hamlet, the image that we are called to justice called to set the time right precisely by our sensitivity to those spectres that unsettle and destabilise any self-identity of the present time (Derrida 2006, 237; 325). The task of inheriting impurely is therefore linked in this text with the task of developing a form of critique that does not ground itself on presence a form of critique that does not attempt to proceed by stripping away a veil of illusion or false appearance, in order to reveal some form of underlying essence that purports to provide a stable ground for critical ideals. For Derrida, critique relies instead precisely on the absence of stable ground an absence that does not undermine the search for justice, but rather represents its condition of possibility (Derrida 2006, 325; 45). The preservation of spectrality the embrace of the haunted and non-identical character that renders our time out of joint is therefore central to Derridas concept of critique. When he seeks to inherit a certain spirit of Marx, it will therefore be a spirit willing to commune with the dead, rather than a spirit that seeks to exorcise their ghosts a spirit that seeks to destabilise the present, rather than a spirit that seeks to bring to presence some underlying reality that would provide a rm ontological ground for critical ideals (Derrida 2006, 67).4 To develop this possibility of an impure inheritance of Marx, Derrida suggests that inheritance cannot be understood as a transmission (Derrida 2006, 18). Inheritance does not comprise the contents of some transparent communication from the dead, and therefore heirs cannot be distinguished from one another by their authenticity or accurate possession of what has been bequeathed. Inheritance is not a form of passive reception, but rather something actively enacted a performative act one that takes place through interpretations that selectively appropriate what will and what will not be inherited. The dead do not bury themselves and so they, least of all, are safe from the actions of those who would inherit them: inheritance interprets the past in a way that intrinsically transforms it (Derrida 2006, 143). In his most explicit discussion of this point, Derrida makes direct reference to Marxs Theses on Feuerbach where Marx criticises philosophers for

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having merely interpreted the world, when the task is instead to change it (Derrida 2006, 63). Derrida argues that to interpret the world is always already to have changed it a position not unknown to a certain spirit of Marx, who channelled great energy into the transformative interpretation of political economy, in order to open up new ways to inherit the sedimented historical potentials of our time. Derrida thus sets out to enact a particular inheritance of Marx without claiming that this inheritance is true or pure with the express goal of transforming, in order to inherit (Derrida 2006, 67). While the machinery of this transformative interpretation unfolds throughout the text, a specic performative act stands out particularly clearly, both because it is foreshadowed so heavily, and because it represents the most blatant transformative citation of Marxs work. When interpreting one of Marxs own performative acts the passage in which Marx christens commodity fetishism Derrida materially transforms the passage, subtly altering its meaning. Marxs passage reads:
In order, therefore, to nd an analogy we must take ight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous gures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of mens hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. (Marx 1990, 165)

Derridas citation of this passage adds commentary that draws attention to the imagery of the head in the argument about religion (Derrida 2006, 2089). It also, however, removes a single sentence specically, the sentence in which Marx distinguishes the fetish from religion the sentence that reads: So it is in the world of commodities with the products of mens hands. Derrida foreshadows this elision throughout the text: its arrival was expected, foretold. The chapter in which it occurs is called The Apparition of the Inapparent subtitled the phenomenological conjuring trick. Images of hands, prestidigitation, manipulation, and related terms are scattered throughout the text, as are references to disappearance, displacement, conjuring, and exorcism. The most direct foreshadowing, however, takes place in an extended discussion of Valry that was added into Derridas rst chapter after the lectures were originally delivered. In this passage, Derrida draws attention to a work in which Valry reects on the fate of Europe by staging a scene in which Hamlet surveys illustrious skulls and nds, in the skull of Kant, a line of

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


inheritance that runs from Kant to Hegel, and then from Hegel to Marx. Derrida then remarks that Valry returns to this same passage, quoting it entire in a later work, except for a single line. Derrida lingers over this point, drawing the readers attention to the omission, noting:
At this point, Valry quotes himself. He reproduces the page of the European Hamlet, the one we have just cited. Curiously, with the errant but infallible assurance of a sleepwalker, he then omits from it only one sentence, just one, without even signalling the omission by an ellipsis: the one that names Marx, in the very skull of Kant. (Derrida 2006, 4)

Derrida then asks: Why this omission, the only one? The name of Marx has disappeared. Where did it go? Exeunt Ghost and Marx, Shakespeare might have noted. The name of the one who disappeared must have gotten inscribed someplace else (Derrida 2006, 4). These questions return to haunt the text when Derrida effects his own elision, omitting just one sentence signalled with an ellipsis this time, but leaving no less pressing the question of why this omission, the only one: the hands of Marx have disappeared. We may have some sense of where they have been most manifestly reinscribed: images of hands, ngers, and digital manipulations paw their way through this text, while the backdrop for the entire work is the apparent triumph of the markets invisible hand, over the planned economies and the utopian communist project. But why this omission? What is Derrida attempting to preserve and what is he attempting to excise with this re-performance of the act through which Marx originally christened the concept of commodity fetishism? What sort of impure inheritance is Derrida attempting to effect, when he makes the hands of Marx disappear? In both the analysis of Valry quoted above, and in a subsequent discussion of Blanchots Marxs Three Voices, Derrida draws attention to the gure of the ellipsis. Derrida tells us that Valry fails to mark his omission by an ellipsis (Derrida 2006, 4), while he speaks of Blanchots work in terms of a very powerful ellipsis that amounts to an almost tacit declaration in order to introduce the modications he is soon to make overtly to Blanchots original text (Derrida 2006, 42). Ellipses omissions, excisions are linked explicitly with the gure of deconstruction, described as a process of linking an afrmation (in particular a political one), if there is any, to the experience of the impossible, which can only be a radical experience of the perhaps (Derrida 2006, 42). The text thus prepares the reader for the omission to come the transformative interpretation that will result from the selective inheritance of Marxs work a material transformation of

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the text through which, Derrida suggests, deconstruction gains critical purchase on afrmative political ideals. Derrida then foreshadows the type of political afrmation that concerns him, through an extended analysis of how Marx criticises Stirner in The German Ideology. Derrida characterises The German Ideology as a whirling dance of ghosts in which both Stirner and Marx share a common wish to have done with the revenant through a reappropriation of life in a body proper (Derrida 2006, 161). Marx and Stirner thus share the goal, Derrida argues, of exorcising the ghost (Derrida 2006, 578; 1289; 132; 141; 155). Where they differ is simply over the means through which this exorcism must be performed: Stirner seeks an immediate reappropriation of the spectral into an egological body; Marx declares Stirners concept of an egological body itself to be a ghost. This stance does not render Marx any more friendly to spooks. Marxs objection is, instead, that Stirner obscures the means to achieve a true exorcism, in the form of a reappropriation of the spectral that must take place, not immediately, as in Stirners egological reappropriation, but rather through the mediation of work; through a labour of thought and practice that takes into account all the social mediations constitutive of the spectres that throw the time out of joint, and that therefore must be exorcised (Derrida 2006, 1613). In Derridas account, Stirner thus stands criticised for attempting to destroy, in thought alone, a spectrality that, because it does not originate in thought, could never be abolished there. Instead, the exorcism can be effected only in practice. As Derrida argues:
Marx denounces a surplus of hallucination and a capitalization of the ghost: what is really (wirklich) destroyed are merely the representations in the form of representation (Vorstellung). The youth may indeed destroy his hallucinations or the phantomatic appearance of the bodies of the Emperor, the State, the Fatherland. He does not actually (wirklich) destroy them. And if he stops relating to these realities through the prostheses of his representation and the spectacles of his fantasy [durch die Brille seiner Phantasie], if he stops transforming these realities into objects, objects of theoretical intuition, that is, into a spectacle, then he will have to take into account the practical structure of the world: Work, production, actualization, techniques. Only this practicality, only this actuality (work, the Wirken or the Wirkung of this Wirklicheit) can get to the bottom of a purely imaginary or spectral esh (phantastiche. . . gespenstige Leibhaftigheit). (Derrida 2006, 1623)

As Derrida sees this argument then, Marx seeks, like Stirner, to abolish spectrality (Derrida 2006, 5760; 1289; 132; 141; 155; 165; 1768;

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


21314). Marx, however, believes that this abolition can be achieved only through a process that transforms the practical structure of the world, a transformation effected specically, in Derridas reading, through the mediation of labour (Derrida 2006, 94; 163). On this reading, labour gures as a despectralising form of action; and production, actualisation and technique are positioned as forms of practice that can effect an exorcism, abolish the ghost that renders the time out of joint, and set the time right, once and for all, by constituting a self-identical present moment that is rationally and transparently in control of its own emancipatory possibilities (Derrida 2006, 1634; 2015). Derrida nds a similar logic in Marxs argument about commodity fetishism (Derrida 2006, 1856). He understands Marx to be mobilising a form of critique that relies on the possibility of unveiling and bringing to presence a pure ontological ground in this case, the material ground of use value, labour, and production (Derrida 2006, 35; 18691; 195205). Derrida takes Marxs argument to be that this pure material essence is currently distorted, corrupted, and hidden by the market: by exchange value (Derrida 2006, 1868; 195). In this reading, exchange value is a spectralising force a factor that renders the time out of joint and non-identical with itself because it conceals and prevents labours central social role from achieving presence (Derrida 2006, 51; 55; 1934). The christening passage in which Marx names the fetish looks like the attempt to distinguish a proper, material body the body of use value, constituted by labour and by technology from the spectralising force of the market that distorts and conceals this proper body, generating the need to set the time right by bringing the proper material body to light and allowing labour to structure social life in an open and transparent way (Derrida 2006, 94; 1934; 2015). Derrida thus hears Marxs argument about the fetish as an attempt to locate and identify the remains of the spectre that spurs critique, by situating this spectre in some contingent, and therefore exorcisable, element of the practical structure of the world. He sees Marxs theory as aimed at the abolition or burial of this spectre, in order to enact a time that has fully and transparently realised its own potentials, and is therefore no longer out of joint (Derrida 2006, 578; 60; 1289; 195; 20114). From Derridas perspective, Marxs conception of emancipation therefore also entails the abolition of the possibility of critique, as the non-identity that fuels critique can be overcome through the transformation and abolition of those elements of the practical world that prevent the present from achieving full self-identity, transparency, and rationality (Derrida 2006, 2056).

230 Nicole Pepperell

In this attempt to ground critique in the bringing to presence of an underlying essence of labour, and in the ideal of emancipatory transformation as the achievement of a time in which nothing remains out of joint, Derrida sees the elements that were selected and gathered together into the dogmatic and oppressive Soviet inheritance of Marx (Derrida 2006, 11415; 12830; 2057). Derrida therefore sets out to criticise the christening passage by attempting to destabilise the ontological distinctions on which he believes this passage relies. He argues that labour and technology cannot be seen as ontologically pure, material essences that are then corrupted by exchange (Derrida 2006, 66; 94; 192; 20914). Instead, labour and technology must themselves be understood as already and intrinsically spectral already haunted by non-identity, already prosthetic, already introducing into the practical structure of the world the destabilising force that Derrida takes Marx to locate in the market alone (Derrida 2006, 66; 1925; 20914). Production and labour, Derrida argues, are not transparent, self-identical material processes whose essence is subsequently veiled by exchange: they are always already impure; they are, in fact, a locus for spectrality, themselves rendering the time out of joint and generating the possibility of critique. This impurity undermines the attempt to view labour as a de-spectralising form of practice, or technology as a force that can exorcise ghosts. From the standpoint of a techne that is always already spectral, critique cannot take the form of stripping away a veil to reveal labour as some sort of pure essence that has been distorted or concealed. Instead, production is itself generative of non-identity, a position that leads Derrida to propose a very different vision of critical work in this case, a work of mourning that seeks, not to overcome the spectre, but rather to remain in communion with it (Derrida 2006, 94; 192). By reconceptualising critique in terms of the work of mourning, Derrida points to the possibility for a form of critique that would remain open to the imminent return of the revenant, rather than seeking the spectres abolition. Derrida sees this approach to critique to open up the potential, not simply to criticise empirical reality against a counterfactual regulative ideal, but to criticise regulative ideals themselves (Derrida 2006, 10710). It is from this perspective that Derrida effects his selective and impure inheritance of Marx. Derrida returns to what he regards as one of Marxs central performative acts: the passage in which the fetish is christened. Derrida interprets this passage as an attempted exorcism, through which Marx seeks to abolish the spectrality of the market, by revealing labour to be the true material content that the market

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


has hitherto veiled (Derrida 2006, 94; 186205; 21114). Seeking to interrupt Marxs performance, Derrida excises from this passage the pivotal sentence through which, he believes, Marx attempts to bring to presence the hidden content that the market veils: Derrida takes away Marxs reference to labour; he hides the sentence that refers to the products of mens hands. Derridas edit to Marxs text thus symbolically keeps labour secret, removing the step by which, in Derridas reading, Marx attempts to reveal the true material relations of capitalist society. In Derridas transformative re-enactment of the christening passage, the ghost gets to stay. Always still to come, always to haunt, forever non-identical with a present time perpetually out of joint: this is the certain spirit of Marx that Derrida enacts in his selective iteration of Marxs text. What Derrida effects here, then, is an exorcism of exorcism. He attempts to inherit in a way that maintains in perpetuity our ability to communicate with the ghost (Derrida 2006, 13; 211; 220). In a text lled with gures chasing ghosts in order to eradicate spectrality, Derrida enjoins us to chase ghosts as well. He asks us to do this, however, not in order to drive the ghosts away, but in order that we may be receptive to the ways in which these spirits continue to haunt us to set our time right (Derrida 2006, 45; 945; 11012; 211; 220). A certain spirit of Marx, Derrida believes, suggests this possibility: the spirit of the Communist Manifesto the spectre of a communism that is threatening, but not yet presenced the spectre of a communism that, in this interpretation, is eternally to haunt, a stranger always already inhabiting Europe, an abstract, desert messianic spirit that remains unaligned with parties, organisations, programmes, and presence, providing critical purchase on both empirical realities and regulative ideals (Derrida 2006, 23; 467; 856; 10712; 1746; 211). It is this spirit that Derrida attempts to inherit through his impure, transformative interpretation of Marxs work. This transformative interpretation establishes certain possibilities for how we might inherit Marx today. It sets forth the possibility for a non-dogmatic, non-essentialising inheritance of Marx that would not ground its standpoint of critique on the potential to bring essence to presence (Derrida 2006, 856; 945; 11314; 21114). The excision through which Derrida enacts this inheritance, however, forswears much more than dogmatism and essentialism: it also cuts away the elements of Marxs critique that are oriented toward the practical transformation of the social institutions through which contemporary forms of injustice are enacted. Derrida leaves unclear how the abstract desert messianism that

232 Nicole Pepperell

he seeks to inherit from Marxs work could provide critical resources to engage with the specic historical circumstance of the collapse of planned economies and the re-emergence of the market, or even with the ten plagues of the new world order that Derrida himself lists, or the possibility for a new international that he puts forward. The result is a form of critique whose categories seem disengaged from the social phenomena that provide the residue of the day for this text (Derrida 2006, 74; 1007; 211). Derridas transformative interpretation of Marx seems aimed at the much more abstract goal of securing an undeconstructible potential for non-identity rather than at mobilising resources for the critique of a determinate form of social life. The specicity of Marxs work which positions itself as a critique of political economy is therefore lost in this translation (Derrida 2006, 11216). Is this level of abstraction, this disconnect between critical categories and the practical structure of the world, a necessary consequence of the attempt to inherit Marx in a non-dogmatic, anti-essentialising form? Or might there be yet another spirit of Marx we could selectively inherit; another way to transformatively interpret Marxs work, to open up the possibility for a non-dogmatic and anti-essentialist critique while engaging more intimately with the determinacy of our historical moment? Is there, perhaps, another way to inherit Derrida, so as to retain a certain spirit of sympathetic deconstructive engagement with Marxism, while moving selectively beyond Derridas particular vision of dry messianic critique? These are questions central to the broader project to which this paper is a contribution, which considers more deeply how we might take up Derridas challenge to inherit Marx in a way that captures a certain non-dogmatic and anti-essentialist spirit, while also opening the possibility for a more determinate engagement with the political challenges of our own time.

Ahmad, Aijaz (2008), Reconciling Derrida: Specters of Marx and Deconstructive Politics, Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Derridas Specters of Marx, ed. Michael Sprinkler, London: Verso, pp. 88109. Arthur, Christopher J. (2004), The New Dialectic and Marxs Capital, Leiden and Boston: Brill. Derrida, Jacques (2006), Specters of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf, New York: Routledge Classics. Fukuyama, Francis (2006), The End of History and the Last Man, New York: Free Press.

Handling Value: Notes on Derridas Inheritance of Marx


Macherey, Pierre (2008), Marx Dematerialised, or the Spirit of Derrida, Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Derridas Specters of Marx, ed. Michael Sprinkler, London: Verso, pp. 1725. Marx, Karl (1990), Capital, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes, London: Penguin Books. Marx, Karl (1993), Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus, London: Penguin Books. Postone, Moishe (1998), Review of Specters of Marx, History and Theory Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 37087. Ryan, Michael (1982), Marxism and Deconstruction: A Critical Appraisal, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1995), Ghostwriting, Diacritics Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 6584.

1. This paper developed from a collaborative project with Duncan Law. Duncan was unable to participate directly in the original conference, and this piece therefore appears, with his endorsement, as a solely-authored work. Its concepts and analysis owe a strong debt, however, to our ongoing collaboration. I want also to thank Robert Briggs, Jessica Cadwallader, Andrew Dunstall, Carl Dyke, and Nate Holdren for their comments, questions and critical insights on earlier versions of this piece, as well as the commenters who participated in discussions of the piece at the Rough Theory academic blog, http://www.roughtheory.org 2. Existing reviews of Specters even where they focus directly on Derridas argument about the need for a transformative inheritance of Marxs texts appear to have overlooked how literal is Derridas material transformation of the commodity fetish argument in Capital see, for example, Macherey, 2008. 3. A number of critics overlook the substantive point being made through this ironic, self-referential dimension of the text, and therefore focus their critiques in what I would suggest is a too-literal way on the manifest content, without noticing how later passages of text work to undermine that content in a way that is often compatible with the critical reactions to the text. See for example Ahmad 2008, 8990. 4. A few critics working at the boundaries of deconstruction and Marxism have suggested that Derrida is insufciently attentive to the ways in which Marxs method and textual strategy are already consonant with a deconstructive critique of approaches that would ground their critical standpoint in any type of presence. This point was made, before the publication of Specters, in Michael Ryans Marxism and Deconstruction, which draws attention in particular to passages from Marxs Grundrisse that suggest an anti-essentialising understanding of critique operative in Marxs work (see Ryan 1982, 62, 102). Responding more specically to Specters, Spivak takes Derrida to task for attening the way in which the use-value/exchange-value distinction plays out in Capital, and for thereby attributing to Marx a set of ontological claims that do not necessarily inhere in Marxs work. I would suggest that more recent reinterpretations of Marxs work, particularly those associated with what Christopher Arthur calls the new dialectic, make more explicit the potential afnities between Marx and Derrida. Unfortunately, this potential afnity is often resisted from the Marxist side, as can be seen in the reections on Derridas work by, for example, Arthur and Postone.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000554

The Rhythm of Laughter: Derridas Contribution to a Syntactic Model of Interpretation

Julia Ponzio
Abstract The focus of this paper is Derridas idea of rhythm. I will analyse how the idea of rhythm can work in a contemporary semiotic, and in particular in a semiotic of interpretation, in order to eliminate the confusion between interpretation and semantics and to constitute a syntactic model of interpretation. In The Double Session Derrida uses the Greek word rytmos in order to indicate the law of spacing. Rytmos is a form that is always about to change or to break up, because it is not a denitive form. It is a not-proper form. But when I say here that a rhythmic relation is a not-proper form, the word proper is intended in the sense of Heideggers Eigentlichkeit. In this sense a not-proper relation is a relation which is not grounded on a justication. What Im trying to demonstrate in this essay is that the rhythmic relation discovers another sense of the word proper, another meaning, which is far from Heideggers Eigentlichkeit. In this sense, it is possible to say that the problem of a rhythmic relation is the problem of a relation between two that is not justied by the third element which makes it proper or eigentlich. * The focus of this paper is Derridas idea of rhythm. Ill analyse how the idea of rhythm can work in a contemporary semiotic, and in particular in a semiotic of interpretation, in order to eliminate the confusion between interpretation and the semantic and to constitute a syntactic model of interpretation. What do we mean by rhythm? In Glas Derrida writes: From The Double Session onward, the purpose would be to rethink the value

The Rhythm of Laughter


of rhythm and to introduce it to a re-elaboration of the graphics of mimesis (Derrida 1986, 154). The reference to The Double Session (collected in Dissemination, 1981) is very important because Derridas idea of rhythm takes shape in this essay. In The Double Session, Derrida uses the Greek word rytmos in order to indicate the law of spacing. In Derridas discourse, this law of spacing has to do with written character and cadence, with a punctuation which articulates the text, opening white spaces in it (2001, 178). In order to clarify what he means by the word rhythm, and why he uses the Greek word, Derrida quotes from Problems in General Linguistics where Benveniste analyses the etymology of the word rytmos (Derrida 2001, 178, note 4). The ancient meaning of this word, according to Benveniste (1971, 283), is not an orderly sequence of movements or events; it is not the scansion of the march, which divides time in equal and numerable parts in order to control it. The original meaning of rytmos has rather to do, according to Benveniste, with the concept of schema, or form. But while a is a xed form, a realised or objectied form, rytmos indicates the form in the moment in which it is assumed, the form in the moment of its formation, that is to say a uid form, an improvised, momentary, modiable form, like waves on the sea (Benveniste 1971, 283). Rytmos is a form that is always about to change or to break up, because it is not a denitive form, it is not the form. It is a not proper form. But when I say here that a rhythmic relation is not proper form, the word proper is intended in the sense of Heideggers Eigentlichkeit. In this sense a not-proper relation is a relation which is not grounded on a justication. What Im trying to demonstrate in this essay is that the rhythmic relation discovers another relationship to the proper, at a distance from Heideggers Eigentlichkeit. In this sense, it is possible to say that the problem of a rhythmic relation is the problem of a relation between two that is not justied by a third element which makes the relation proper eigentlich a third which the relation can make reference to in order to demonstrate that it is proper. The condition of a rhythmic relation in which it is always about to change or to break up involves the link between rhythm and mourning. This link between rhythm and mourning provokes, as I will attempt to show in this essay, an inversion of the idea of the proper, and this inversion of the idea of the proper is the main effect of the introduction of rhythm in the graphic of mimesis. In the classic theory of the sign, the relation between signier and signied needs to be justied, to be motivated by a third element.

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This third element is a semantic link, a link of sense, which justies the relation in such a way that the arbitrary relation between signier and signied appears proper, appropriated, that is to say justied, for example, by a law of the language. In The Pit and the Pyramid (collected in Margins of Philosophy, 1982), Derrida highlights that Hegels semiology insists on the arbitrariness of the relation between signier and signied. If this relation is arbitrary, the signied is independent of the signier, and not linked to it in an enduring way (Derrida 1982, 84). Arbitrariness, according to Hegel, means the absence of every natural relation of resemblance, participation or analogy between the signied and the signier(Derrida 1982, 84). But this not original, not natural relation is therefore proper because it is justied by a semantic link. Derrida shows how in the classic theory of the sign in Hegels semiology, for example, but also in Saussure (Derrida 1986, 9098), the proper and arbitrariness are deeply linked: an arbitrary relation is proper or appropriated if it is justied by a semantic link which functions as motivation. In this kind of relation, where the proper is grounded on a motivated arbitrariness, the terms of the relation are replaceable, that is to say translatable: in this sense interpretation consists in a substitution, in a translation which lets the semantic link emerge that grounds the proper in the relation. Derrida highlights in Glas this relation between arbitrariness, the proper and motivation, for example when he dwells upon the difference that Hegel establishes between Klang, and Gerusch (Derrida 1986, 24951). What Hegel calls Klang, according to Derrida, is the pure resonance of a body: with its Klang, a body expresses its own form or coherence. For this reason, the sound of a cracked or scratched bell is not a Klang, but is a Gerusch: the Gerusch is the noise of the matter that obstructs, that grates, that breaks, that damages the equality of the form (Derrida 1986, 250). In the case of the cracked bell, the emitted sound is not proper nor original, and is thus not authentic. In the Klang that is the pure resonance, on the other hand, the resounding body expresses itself. The Klang signies the resounding body in an appropriate way: it is a proper relation between signier and signied. This means that the link between the Klang and the resounding object is a semantic link. Or, better, it is the prelude to a semantic link because in Hegels discourse, as Derrida says, Gerusch and Klang are not already at the level of spirit. The semantic link which the Klang announces, is realised only at the level of spirit, in what Hegel calls Sprache, in language. Klang in Hegel is therefore, the passage or mediation that conducts from Gerusch to Sprache.

The Rhythm of Laughter


What distinguishes language from pure resonance? The resonance of a body hit by an external element is directed from the inside to the outside. The resonance is therefore dispersed and cannot be recovered. What is missing in the resonance is the tympanum, which recovers what is said, bringing it again inside interiority. Language works in Hegel through the indissociable couple voice-hearing. Situated a moment before language, congured as prelude to language, as prelude to the semantic relation, what Hegel calls Klang shows, in Derridas discourse, another possibility of the relation between signier and signied: it shows an other possibility of the proper. The relation between sound and resounding object announces the semantic link: this means that signier and signied appear in Hegels discourse in the instant before their realization in language. In this instant before language, they appear in a double relation in which they are at the same time separated and kept together by a white space which is not lled in by a semantic link. Derrida shows how without a semantic link to motivate the relation, it is impossible to distinguish Klang and Gerusch, that is to say to distinguish a proper from an improper relation between signier and signied. Both in the case of the relation between the knell and its Klang and in the case of the broken knell and its Gerusch, the object and its sound are separated and kept together in an unmotivated space. This relation is therefore an unjustied relation, which is not, however, an indifferent relation, and thus not a relation between one thing and another. The pure resonance is something that is able to establish what Im dening here as a rhythmic relation, and this means, as I intend to show, that the pure resonance before language is writing, criture. The problem of Klang, that is to say the problem of the unjustied relation between signier and signied, is also what determines, as Derrida shows in Glas, the question of the onomatopoeic sounds in Saussures Course in General Linguistics (Derrida 1986, 908). Onomatopoeic sounds constitute a problem in Saussures discourse because they are an exception to the rule of the arbitrary relation between signier and signied. Saussure tries to show, according to Derrida, that they are not really an exception to the rule of motivation that makes proper the relation between signier and signied. Onomatopoeic words, according to Saussure, are not to be considered signs, but symbols. When Saussure says that the relation between signier and signied is an arbitrary relation, he means that it is a relation that is not natural. For this reason, Derrida says, Saussure distinguishes between sign and symbol. In the case of the symbol, the link

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between signier and signied is justied by a natural link: the natural link motivates the relation and makes sure that the symbol cannot be indifferently replaced with another signier. Derrida quotes Saussures example: the symbol of justice as a pair of scales cannot be indifferently replaced with another symbol. But, Derrida adds, it remains possible to think of another image, different from the two scales, which can symbolize justice (Derrida 1986, 90). This means that the signier, in a symbolic relation, can be replaced. This replaceability, even if it is partial, according to Derrida, weakens or corrodes the border between sign and symbol: sign and symbol share the possibility of the substitution (translation) of the signier. This common possibility of substitution is due to the fact that both in the case of the symbol and the sign, the relation between signier and signied is a motivated relation: meaning that the relation is justied from something external to the relation. In the case of the symbol, the third element which motivates and justies is a natural link, while in the case of the linguistic sign, it is a conventional link. Saussures need to identify a natural link between signier and signied in the case of symbols and onomatopoeic words is very similar to Hegels consideration of the Klang as the passage from noise to language. Onomatopoeic words and the Klang represent, respectively, for Saussures system of language and for Hegels system of metaphysics, the same danger: they threaten to constitute a remainder, an inappropriate residual. In order to eliminate this danger, onomatopoeic words and Klang must be put in relation to the system. This relation in Saussure is a relation of opposition. The distinction between linguistic signiers and onomatopoeic words allows the sphere of the linguistic systems organic elements to be circumscribed. Arbitrary signiers are internal to this sphere, while symbolic signiers and onomatopoeic words are external. But this exteriority is not the exteriority of diffrance, because onomatopoeic sounds and symbols, once introduced in language, are subjected to an arbitrary phonetic and morphological evolution. For this reason, they can enter into the linguistic system. This means that this exteriority is only provisional, and that the linguistic system, characterized by arbitrariness, that is to say by a lack of motivation, has the possibility to interiorize the external elements. The linguistic system in Saussure can, according to Derrida, incorporate symbols and onomatopoeic words, through a process of demotivation, or better, through a new motivation, that is to say through the substitution of a conventional motivation for a natural motivation (Derrida 1986, 912).

The Rhythm of Laughter


Derrida highlights that the word glas constitutes a destabilizing element in this discourse:
Furthermore, the concept of onomatopoeia presupposes, in the way it is handled here, a very simplied structure of imitation (between the noise of the thing and the sound of the language). In this respect, the resemblance is faint, verily nonexistent, between glas and what in fact? the noise of a bell [cloche]? between fouet and the noise of the stinging [cinglantes] lashes. One wonders why Saussure chose these words as examples of presumed onomatopoeias. (Derrida 1986, 93)

According to Derrida, the words Saussure uses in order to exemplify onomatopoeic words glas and fouet are not well chosen or, perhaps, on the contrary, are chosen too well. In this passage, Derrida italicises onoma to suggest, as I will show, that onomatopoeia works, in Saussures discourse, as proper names. It is actually very difcult, says Derrida, to perceive the natural link between the sound of the word glas and the sound of a bell, or between the sound of the word fouet and that of a lash. Saussure himself admits that the word glas is not an authentic onomatopoeic word, and the fact that in the evolution of language this word has changed to the point where it has become similar to the sound it signies, is an accidental event (Derrida 1986, 91). The word glas can be put in relation with the sound it signies only in an improper way. For this reason, the Klang emerges in the word glas as the pure resonance that is not a prelude to language but is, on the contrary, something that disconcerts language. It disconcerts language because it shows the possibility of a relation between signier and signied which cannot be motivated by a third term. In this way, the onomatopoeic word, the symbol and mimesis, become, in Derridas discourse, things that the laws of reason cannot subjugate, because they show a link which refuses to justify itself, which withdraws from every attempt to establish an identity. It is important to stress that this relation is however not a relation of indifference: the sound of a knell and the knell that produces it, the sound of a knell and the word that signies it, belong to each other, but in a sense distant from the Heideggers Heigentlichkeit. When this kind of relation appears, the concept of the proper itself is disconcerted. The sense that the proper acquires in this relation is the sense in which a name can be proper. The relation between the knell and its sound, its

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sound and the onomatopoeic word, is the relation of the proper name. Derrida writes in Glas:
The passion of the proper name: never to let itself be translated according to its desire but to suffer translation which is intolerable to it. To want to reappropriate itself, to take again into its belly all the worlds tongues come to lick its surface the moment, exposed, pronounced, the proper name has commonly engaged itself in the concept or the class. (Derrida 1986, 20)

In the proper name, property is no longer linked to motivation: this separation determines a property which doesnt allow any translation or substitution. The proper name cannot be translated and who it is who bears the name is not replaceable with another person with the same name. The link between the name and the named is not a semantic link. The name is a gift, an act without past, a gratuitous act without motivations and without justication. In this unmotivated appurtenance the signier resounds in a way which disconcerts the ear, the tympanum, that is to say, it disconcerts the possibility of what Derrida in Tympan calls entendre, in the double sense of to listen to and to understand. Derrida writes in Glas: like the fouet and glas, words strike; like the fouet and glas words make noise and strike the ear. It would be as though there were morsels of fouet and glas in each word (Derrida 1986, 93). The noise of words, their resonance emancipated from the semantic relation, is the timbre of the voice, the style of writing. What Derrida calls style, which has to do with the difcult operation of the sexualization of difference, is what prevents the rhythmical relation from becoming a mechanical or indifferent relation of anything with anything else. If rhythm makes it possible to think the graphic of mimesis in a new way, it is not therefore the neuter rhythm of a march, it is not a rhythm indifferently played by a clapping of hands, by an instrument or by an electronic device. An image that Derrida often links with the idea of the rhythmic relation is laughter. The main scene of Mallarms work, which Derrida analyzes in The Double Session, is a curious mime in which Pierrot takes his revenge, killing his wife, tickling her and provoking uncontrollable laughter (Derrida 1981, 2001). The image of laughter appears many times in Derridas works, for example in From Restricted to General Economy, (collected in Writing and Difference, 1967) with reference to Batailles critique of Hegels system. Laughter is nothing other than a vibration, a rhythmic succession of glottal movements, separated from empty, white, senseless spaces. But laughter has also a timbre, a style, a voice: I can

The Rhythm of Laughter


recognise someone from his laugh. The rhythm of laughter is not a neuter rhythm: laughter in The Double Session (and perhaps in all cases where the image of laughter appears) does not have a feminine voice. This timbre, this style, is what the tympanum cant hear: Derrida stresses the fact that the explosion of laughter in Mallarms text is mimed, that is to say as silent as the a of the word diffrance. This means that laughter cannot be heard by the system of metaphysics. It cannot be captured by its tympanum. Derrida writes in Qual Quelle:
The timbre of my voice, the style of my writing are that which for (a) me never will have been present. I neither hear nor recognize the timbre of my voice. If my style marks itself, it is only on a surface which remains invisible and illegible for me. Point of speculum: here I am blind to my style, deaf to what is most spontaneous in my voice. (Derrida 1982, 296)

I am therefore deaf and blind to what is peculiar, proper, to me, to what, more than every other thing, appertains to me, to what is missing if I am not here. This proper, inverted by a point of speculum, cannot be heard by the system of metaphysics and this means that it cannot become present. It is a speculum that is not present to mark an opposition between original and copy. The timbre of my voice, the style of my writing, did not pass through a living present and this means I have never assumed or chosen them: they already are, they are dj. When I say here they are dj, I am using the verb to be (perhaps crossing it) only in the sense of the attribution of a name, in the same sense in which, for example, I say: I am . . . Julia. In Spurs Derrida says: Already (dj), such is the name for what has been effaced or subtracted beforehand, but which nevertheless left behind a mark, a signature which is retracted in that very thing form which it is withdrawn (Derrida 1976, 35). When Derrida says dj is the name, he is saying it is a proper name. Derrida sometimes writes dj with a capital D not to hypostatise it, but to underline that it is a proper name. What Derrida names dj is what opens the possibility of an interpretation whose sense doesnt coincide with semantics. That which is the proper name of what comes before every presentation, Derrida says in Glas, is neither an origin, nor a beginning, nor a ground (Derrida 1986, 11). The origin; the beginning; the fundament, produce a linear development: the origin realises itself in what is originated, as in Hegels system, without producing a remainder. On the contrary, what Derrida names dj produces a movement that is neither linear nor without remainder: it produces a movement of continuous inversion.

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Derrida plays in Glas with the coincidence in French of the sound of the rst person of the verb to be and that of the rst person of the verb to follow: je suis could mean both suivre and tre. In this sense, it is possible to read the sentence Je suis dj as I already follow. The living present is in this way inverted in a past that has never been a present, has never taken place (Derrida 1986, 79). I am and I follow are continuously inverting one another, and this means that the present does not begin from itself, nor does it control its past by presentations substituting for the absent past. A proper sign is not possible as a way of signifying a past which has never been a present. A semantic relation between signier and signied can work only if the non-presence of the signied is provisional. In this sense, a semantic relation between a signier and dj is not possible. This impossible relation between a signier and dj is precisely the place where rhythm, introduced in the graphic of mimesis, disconcerts the sense of the proper. In many passages in Glas, the problem of dj is interwoven with the problem of the proper name and of the signature. Dj is a signature, it sounds like a signature: Derrida says: read the dj as a siglum (Derrida 1986, 19). Derrida plays with the sound of the name dj, which recalls the inverse of his abbreviated signature: D. J. Derrida writes: When I sign Im already dead [je suis dj mort]. I hardly have the time to sign that I am already dead. I have to abridge the writing, hence the siglum, because the structure of the signature event carries my death in that event (Derrida 1986, 19). Dj is a signature, an abbreviated and inverted signature. When a signier enters into an impossible relation with dj, it is inverted, as if it were seen backwards in a rear-view mirror: The Behind and the Already, the Drriere and the Dj protect me, make me illegible, shelter me on the texts verso. I am accessible, legible, visible only in a rear-view mirror (Derrida 1986, 84). In this inversion, the signature become shorter, becomes a siglum, because it enters in a time that is already too short, in the time of what is missing, in a time that is the instant before mourning. The signature is the attribution of a copyright. It is what links the words with whoever wrote them. But the signature, Derrida says, is often unreadable: legibility and translatability are not features of a signature. Who knows me knows that this is my signature, if by denition the signature is not reproducible. But this my which makes this signature my signature, is not the my of the copyright, the my of property certications, which classify and mark boundaries. This my, this proper that links me and my signature is a property which has never been

The Rhythm of Laughter


ratied, chosen, requested by a living presence, it is dj. When dj is introduced, interpretation and the semantic can no longer be confused. My style, the timbre of my voice, exceeds the meaning of what Im saying or writing: it exceeds successful communication. Style is dj. It is the proper I have not chosen. It marks with the heaviness of the rest the light pureness of the signier but, at the same time, it is also what is missing when my words are translated: it is the irreplaceable part of what Im saying which shortens time because I already miss what I feel as irreplaceable. The Dj which inverts the proper makes impossible the confusion between interpretation and the semantic because it makes the time of interpretation totally different from the time of the semantic. When a signier enters into an impossible relation with dj, the time of this relation is no longer the time of the provisional absence of the signied. Time is no more the lengthy wait of the substitution of the provisional signier. When I am waiting for something, time is always too long and boring. On the contrary, when a signier enters into a relation with a dj, time becomes too short, as when I am in relation with something I feel to be unique, something which cannot be substituted. The proper in this case is not a property right but the mourning for what is irreplaceable. In this sense, the signier in relation with a dj is inverted, that is to say I feel it as already dead, as something that I miss even before its absence. This time that is totally different from the temporality of consciousness, from the temporality of being or from the messianic waiting, is the time of interpretation. It is denitely what makes possible a relation without a third, which motivates it. It is, we can say, a time in which the proper is no longer more a relation of need but is a relation of desire. It is the time which ows, and which is always too short, the time in which I miss something before its absence: this missing is what agglutinates, keeps together, but keeps together in a relation that is always about to change or to break up, in a relation where, therefore, mourning, has already began. It is not an original relation, where proper has the form of what Derrida calls Greffe, or Couture, which at the same time both keep together and mark a fracture:
For seams [couture], this must be stressed, do not hold at any price. They must not be, here, for example, of a foolproof solidity. This is why that [a] works all the time. To sew up [coudre] a wound, to ght [en dcoudre], to resew, to be forced to sew, to be kept from sewing. [. . .] Sewing [couture] than betrays, exhibits what it should hide, dissimulacras what it signals. (Derrida 1986, 209)

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This kind of relation is rhythm in the sense of rytmos, where laughter, inversion and mourning are deeply linked. Derrida writes in Glas: You have to know how to die of laughter when practicing inversion (Derrida 1986, 129). Interpretation becomes writing: it becomes this explosion of laughter, where something is kept together in a time that is too short, on the brink of an irreparable loss.

Benveniste, Emile [1967] (1971), Problems in General Linguistics, trans. Mary Elisabeth Meek, Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. Derrida, Jacques [1967] (2001), Writing and Difference, trans Alan Bass, London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques [1972] (1981), Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques [1972] (1982), Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques [1974] (1986), Glas, trans. John Leavey and Richard Rand, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. Derrida, Jacques (1976), perons. Les styles de Nietzsche / Spurs. Nietzsches styles / Sporen. Die stile Nietzsches / Sproni. Gli stili di Nietzsche. Venezia: Corbo & Fiore.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000566

Pardon for not meaning: Remarks on Derrida, Blanchot and Kafka

Caroline Sheaffer-Jones
Abstract Jacques Derrida returns relentlessly to the question of literature which is already a prominent concern in early texts such as Writing and Difference. The focus of this article is the conception of literature in Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation, in which Derrida discusses liation with reference to Abraham and Isaac, the fundamental necessity of secrecy and the notion of the pardon. Above all, it is Kafkas Letter to His Father which perhaps provides a paradigm for dening literature. In this specular address, the promise of a heritage is in the balance. Writing incessantly on Kafka, Maurice Blanchot also reects on literature. The notion of literature put forward by Derrida in Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation is considered in this article, as well as reections by Blanchot, to show what might be at stake in Kafkas Letter to His Father. * It [art] has a name: self-destruction, innite disintegration. And another name: happiness, eternity. Blanchot 1995 [Whereas] literature is the place of all these secrets without secret, of all these crypts without depth, without any bottom other than the abyss of the call [appel] or the address, without any law other than the singularity of the event, the work. Derrida 2005

246 Caroline Sheaffer-Jones

The Sacrice of Isaac and Literature

In considering Jacques Derrida today, I will turn to the question of literature to examine a part of what might be his heritage. In a vast number of texts on prominent gures including Mallarm, Joyce, Ponge, Celan, Genet and Blanchot to name only a few, Derrida has delineated many nely nuanced positions. In this article, I will focus on Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation, the second section in Derridas Donner la mort published in 1999.1 How might its recurrent motif Pardon for not meaning be fundamental to literature?2 In writing about literature, Derrida discusses this enigmatic statement in general and then with reference to Abrahams sacrice of his son Isaac. How would literature be concerned with this sacrice and with the Bible? What is the impossible liation which Derrida exposes, including in Kafkas Letter to his Father (Kafka 1979b, 186236; 2004, 1152)?3 In play is ultimately the border between truth and literature, indeed the liation of literature from some authoritative source. Following Kierkegaard, Derrida focuses on Abrahams secret with God, his absolute faithfulness to the word of God and yet the meaninglessness of this secret. Of importance is the meteoric and contradictory instant of the sacrice, perhaps revisited in literature.4 While Derrida examines the words Pardon for not meaning and the question of address, without meaning, to another or to oneself,5 Maurice Blanchot emphasises, in his reading of Kafka in The Narrative Voice (the it, the neutral),6 a neutral voice which speaks, pointing to the void. This voice, in which neither one person nor another speaks, undermines the notion of truth. In this article, I will discuss aspects of Derridas Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation and Blanchots reading of Kafka and narrative voice and then I will draw on these texts in my analysis of Kafkas Letter to his Father to show the way in which Kafkas address to the father might bring into play the limits of literature. Derrida has engaged in a sustained reection on the intertwinement of philosophy and literature. In the early texts Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology and Margins of Philosophy, in which the groundwork for deconstruction was established, Derrida rethought theories of truth in the works of inuential philosophers such as Plato, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger and Levinas. In writings on diffrance, on the trace, on cinders (Derrida 1982, 127; 1991a), he challenged, in the history of Western metaphysics, the concept of pure transparent meaning or a transcendental signied. The idea of meaning simply divested of the

Remarks on Derrida, Blanchot and Kafka 247

text is no less disputed in Derridas Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation. In this piece involving the biblical story of sacrice, it is the relationship between the truth of the sacred writings and literature, or the Bible and the text, which is again examined. In Dissemination, Derrida tackles related issues in a discussion of Mallarms project of writing the Book. While it is a descendant of the Bible, it clearly steps beyond the sacred writings by its simulacrum and theatrical staging (Derrida 1981a, 545). In The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing, Derrida juxtaposes the logocentric concept of the book with writing (Derrida 1976, 626). From a different perspective, Blanchot has also brought into question, with reference to Nietzsche, the theological conception of the book, its supposed inherent truth and its transparent meaning, in order to expose an absence of the work at the borders of literature (Blanchot 1993, 42234). Derridas Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation follows on from his lengthy analysis of the problem of giving death, developed with particular reference to Pato cka, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Levinas in The Gift of Death. By situating Abrahams sacrice of his son Isaac at the core of literature, Derrida associates with literature the question of liation, or the notion of descent. More precisely, the literary heritage is at stake. It is the possibility of meaning which Derrida examines in particular in this sacrice and Abrahams secret with God. In Derridas Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation, the rst words Pardon for not meaning constitute the title of the rst part, a little over a page, and are repeated ve times in this outwork which is not included in the table of contents of Donner la mort. It is as if these incomprehensible words which say nothing exceeded the text or could not be contained in it by their lack of meaning, their secrecy or illegibility. Following the general remarks on the motif, Derrida states that Abraham but also God could have said: Pardon for not meaning. Revisiting Gods direction to Abraham to sacrice his son Isaac, on which Kierkegaard deliberates in Fear and Trembling, Derrida ties literature to secrecy, more specically that secret between God and Abraham who answered here I am without divulging to anyone that he had been told to slay the one whom he cherished the most (Derrida 1995, 62).7 Abrahams insuperable and complex conict of allegiances to God and to the other in the unconditional gift of death to his son, to God and to himself is analysed in detail in The Gift of Death (Derrida 1995, 669; see also Kierkegaard 1970, 91129). Abraham maintains absolute secrecy. In responding to his sons call, as he does to God, with the words Here I am, Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide

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the lamb.8 Derrida quotes Kierkegaards thoughts on Abraham: So he does not speak an untruth, but neither does he say anything, for he is speaking in a strange tongue (Derrida 1995, 74; Kierkegaard, 123), adding in the same way Bartlebys I would prefer not to takes on the responsibility of a response without response (Derrida 1995, 745; see Melville). Derrida writes about Bartlebys statement: The modality of this repeated utterance that says nothing, promises nothing, neither refuses nor accepts anything, the tense of this singularly insignicant statement reminds one of a non-language or a secret language. Is it not as if Bartleby were also speaking in tongues? (Derrida 1995, 75). Thus what Derrida highlights in Abrahams speech and to which he compares the speech of Bartleby, Melvilles literary character, is a non-language or secret language. As Derrida emphasises, Abraham testies to absolute faith but he does not do so by revealing a truth to human beings. He keeps a secret, just as Isaac is a secret witness; Pardon for not meaning, Pardon for not wanting to say. It is this testimony which is paramount in Derridas consideration of the sacrice of Isaac and literature, namely the aporia of silent testimony. Derrida asks: Can one witness in silence? By silence? (Derrida 1995, 73; see also Derrida 1993) Derrida has returned relentlessly to this problem from many perspectives in his writings, notably in Shibboleth For Paul Celan in which he deliberates on the words: Niemand / zeugt fr den / Zeugen (no one / testies for the / witness) or again in Demeure, his reading of Blanchots The Instant of My Death, in which he discusses the possibility of testifying to the absence of attestation and refers to Blanchots The Step Not Beyond (Blanchot / Derrida 2000, 312; Blanchot 1992, 76). Derrida states: No one testies for the witness but speech . . . testifying for the absence of attestation, with a for whose rich evocation remains ungraspable (in the place of, on behalf of, destined for) (Blanchot / Derrida 2000, 31). Attestation, signalling the absence of testimony, is associated by Blanchot with the ungraspable place of the neuter. In Derridas Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation, the heart of literature would lie in the moment of its Abrahamic origin, in Abrahams unspeakable secret in which he was bound to God to avow nothing. Meaning is suspended in the offering of Isaac, this instant of madness exceeding any restricted economy of sacrice (see in particular Derrida 1995, 94115).9 With reference to Kierkegaards Fear and Trembling, Derrida explains that God sees in secret but it is as if He did not know what Abraham was going to do. He returns his son to him after knowing

Remarks on Derrida, Blanchot and Kafka 249

that Abraham had trembled and sacriced everything. Derrida writes about the crucial moment.
This is the moment when Abraham gives the sign of absolute sacrice, namely, by putting to death or giving death to his own, putting to death his absolute love for what is dearest, the only son; this is the instant in which the sacrice is as it were consummated, for only an instant, a no-time lapse, separates this from the raised arm of the murderer himself; this is the impossible to grasp instant of absolute imminence in which Abraham can no longer go back on his decision, nor even suspend it. In this instant, therefore, in the imminence that does not even separate the decision from the act, God returns his son to him and decides by sovereign decision, by an absolute gift, to reinscribe sacrice within an economy by means of what thenceforth comes to resemble a reward. (Derrida 1995, 956, original emphasis; Kierkegaard, 123)

Derrida focuses on the absolute gift and the instant which is impossible to grasp, on the necessity for Abraham to speak, not in a language which is common or translatable but in tongues, without which there would in effect be no gift (Derrida 1995, 74). It would instead be a negotiation. Abraham suffers beyond what is part of give and take and beyond the economy of sacrice for the economy itself is sacriced. The instant to which Derrida directs attention cannot be inscribed within any economy. It is the paradoxical moment when it is as if Abraham, by obeying God absolutely, were a murderer, where contradictory positions are joined. Derrida makes the following comment in his text in parentheses: (God stops him at the very instant when there is no more time, where no more time is given, it is as if Abraham had already killed Isaac: the concept of the instant is always indispensable) (Derrida 1995, 72, original emphasis). What is crucial is that the extremes of giving and not giving death, saving and losing, meet in a gift of death which engulfs God, Abraham and his son Isaac, the hope for the future. There is no clear distinction there between ction and non-ction; it is indeed as if Abraham had already carried out the act. Literature would have its origin in this unfathomable secret, the beginning of literature yet perhaps also its end, where literature might be consumed without remains or testimony. Derrida not only examines the absence of meaning exemplied in the sacrice and brought to the fore in the phrase Pardon for not meaning, but he also analyses the word pardon and above all the aporia of forgiveness (pardon) where one can only ask forgiveness for the unforgiveable (Derrida 2005, 5). On the one hand, there is obviously

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no reason to ask forgiveness for that which is already forgivable yet, on the other, how might the request for forgiveness for the unforgiveable be granted? Abraham asks forgiveness not for disobeying God but for obediently following his instructions and for accepting to sacrice promise itself, the child of promise (Derrida 2005, 5; Kierkegaard, 1201). Moreover the problem is not simple, as Derrida insists, since the request for forgiveness necessarily prolongs the fault, as if the perjury were always repeated in the request. Importantly, there is also the difculty of whether one can grant forgiveness to oneself or to another. Derrida writes:
Can one ever ask forgiveness from oneself? But could I ever ask forgiveness from someone else, seeing that I must, it seems, they tell us, identify myself sufciently with the other, with the victim, in order to ask forgiveness from him knowing what I am talking about, knowing, in order to experience in my turn, in his place, the evil that I have done to him? The evil that I continue to do to him, at the very moment of asking forgiveness, that is to say at the moment of betraying again, of prolonging this perjury in which the sworn faith will already have consisted its very indelity? (Derrida 2005, 15; 1999, 189)

After identifying the aporia of forgiveness in Abrahams plea to God, Derrida leads on to a discussion of other texts in particular Kafkas Letter to his Father. It is apparent that the question of asking for forgiveness from someone other than oneself or asking oneself for forgiveness are impossible questions. Two questions to which one is always held to answer yes and no, neither yes nor no (Derrida 2005, 15). How would one ask oneself for forgiveness? Indeed asking for forgiveness from someone else, as evident in the passage cited, poses the problem of identication with the other and of the possibility of putting oneself in the place of the other while repeating the perjury in the very request for forgiveness. Derrida emphasises above all the impossible substitution of places at the boundaries of literature, evident in the gift of death in the secret sacrice of Isaac, and where there remains above all the incomprehensible and empty testimony of Pardon for not meaning.

The Abyss of Address

Before considering Kafkas Letter to his Father, I will make some remarks about Blanchots analysis of Kafka and narrative voice. Blanchot focuses on the substitution of places in the narrative voice

Remarks on Derrida, Blanchot and Kafka 251

where the limits of literature are at stake and where the work, neither ction nor non-ction, is silent. The voice is not that of truth but the meaninglessness of the void. Moreover in his reading of Kafkas Before the Law, Derrida writes that the story becomes the impossible story of the impossible and describes the inaccessible site of the law even when it is presented (Derrida 1992, 200; Kafka 1979a). In this text on Kafka, Derrida also mentions Blanchots The Madness of the Day, the impossible narration and the whole story of this non-story (Derrida 1992, 206; Blanchot 1999).10 It is as if the narrative were about nothing but the absence of meaning, indeed the limits at which there would be no narrative and the voices would remain unrecognised. In Narrative Voice (the it [il], the neuter) published in The Innite Conversation and also in De Kafka Kafka (Blanchot 1993, 37987; 1981, 17184), Blanchot describes in Kafkas narration what he calls the alteration occasioned by another kind of speech or by the other as speech (as writing) (Blanchot 1993, 384). There is a distance or impersonality in the space of the work which is not just the distancing of the main character from himself. Referring to his analyses in The Space of Literature, Blanchot quotes Kafka as saying that he entered into literature when he was able to substitute he [le il] for I (Blanchot 1993, 380; 1969, 558).11 For Blanchot, narrative voice is no longer the voice of the godlike omniscient narrator speaking truth, as he explains in an overview of traditional narration and also in a commentary of gures such as Cervantes, Flaubert and Thomas Mann. What Kafkas narration demonstrates would be that storytelling brings the neutral into play (Blanchot 1993, 384). Blanchot adds: Narration that is governed by the neutral is kept in the custody of the third person it [il], an it that is neither a third person nor the simple cloak of impersonality (Blanchot 1993, 384). The it where the neutral speaks says nothing and is the mark of radical exteriority. In a note, Blanchot writes about a play of substitutions where the narration turns, not on the I speaking, but on the it, the neutral of the abyssal voice.
The it [il] does not simply take the place traditionally occupied by a subject; a mobile fragmentation, it modies what we mean by place: a xed location, unique or determined by its placement. Here we should once again (confusedly) say that the it [il], dispersing after the fashion of a lack in the simultaneous plurality the repetition of a moving and diversely unoccupied place, designates its place as both the place from which it would always be missing and that would thus remain empty, but also as a surplus of place, a place that is always too many: hypertopia. (Blanchot 1993, 462)

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Blanchot points to the vast emptiness of the neutral it of narrative voice, like Marguerite Duras hole-word, hollowed out in its center by a hole, the hole in which all the other words should have been buried. Blanchot states: This is the narrative voice, a neutral voice that speaks the work from out of this place without a place, where the work is silent (Blanchot 1993, 385; Duras 1966). Blanchot describes the narrative voice at the limit of the work, a voice which is neither a transcendent voice from outside the work nor one which is simply placed within the work in the words of any one character (Blanchot 1993, 385). Importantly, Blanchot emphasises the limits of literature where the apparent presence of the I is undermined. The neutral voice occupies no one place in the work but is afrmed in the substitution of places. In Encountering the Imaginary in The Book to Come, Blanchot reects, albeit with some nostalgia, on that elusive and forever displaced point at which ction and non-ction would meet and the voice from the abyss would be properly heard (Blanchot 2003, 7; see also Derrida 1978, 7). At that place, paradoxically, Ulysses would become Homer and the rst man would create himself. Indeed Blanchot reects on the predicament of the primal man, preceded by no one, as if, in order to be created, he himself needed to utter, in an entirely human way, the divine Fiat lux [Let there be light] that could open his own eyes (Blanchot 2003, 7). At such an instant, in this substitution of places, Blanchot exposes the abyssal void of the non-narrative, that impossible utterance of Fiat lux which would be neither divine nor human, neither uttered by God nor man. In his readings of Kafka, Blanchot emphasises the voice of the it [he] or the neutral voice. Narrative voice is about the torment of impossible narration, which is both its wisdom and its folly, and about exteriority (Blanchot 1993, 462). It is Kafkas impossible narration which I will consider in his Letter to his Father, insisting on a text in which ction and non-ction merge and in which the narrative voice entails the substitution of places. In this context, I will also raise the issue of forgiveness. Derrida writes on Kafkas letter: This letter stands [se tient] neither inside literature nor outside literature. It perhaps takes after [tient de] literature but is not contained [ne se contient pas] within literature (Derrida 2005, 9; 1999, 178). The borders between ction and non-ction are also blurred again in the letter within the letter at the end of Kafkas text, where Kafkas father articulates his concerns through his son. Kafkas Letter to his Father involves an abyssal address, where the narration is not about the words of an individual but rather a neutral

Remarks on Derrida, Blanchot and Kafka 253

voice, which is always displaced. The text begins with Dearest Father and ends with the signature Franz. It includes autobiographical details, yet at the same time it is ction. It is apparent that the narrative voice in the text occupies the place of various gures. What is important is the way in which Kafkas address entails a blurring of different positions, above all those of father and son. In the letter which contains reproaches about aspects of Kafkas life, Kafka confronts his father and looking back to capture his thoughts as a child, he speaks, in part as though he were the child, about the way in which he saw himself then through the eyes of his father, indeed the eyes of the entire world. It is as if his father had attained immense, almost godlike, proportions: you were for me the measure of all things (Kafka 1979b, 1912). How are these positions of the child and the father altered in the letter? While these positions are always displaced, they are not simply erased but are part of a multitude of indistinct perspectives. In his letter, Kafka criticises his father for often setting rules which he himself reserved the privilege of infringing. The father would be at once the lawmaker and beyond the law, certainly not bound like the son. However does this not also mean that the fathers disregard for his laws was tantamount to the sons disobedience; that it was as if the father were in the place of the son, acting like him or mirroring his position? Who adopted the role of the father and who the son? Such confusion is also evident in the specular address in which Kafka quotes his own father speaking about himself as the young son of Kafkas grandfather in difcult times. Inserted in Kafkas Letter to his Father, his address to his father, is a speech by Kafkas father supposedly addressing his son, or more precisely a speech which the son recalls, or puts into the mouth of his father. The narrative voice speaks neither from the place of the father nor the son. Kafka quotes his father: But for all that, for all that Father was always Father to me. Ah, nobody knows what that means these days! What do these children know? Nobodys been through that! Does any child understand such things today? (Kafka 1979b, 204) In reecting on his childhood in this passage of the Letter to his Father, Kafkas father puts himself into the place of the son, speaking as the son of Father, his father, and yet through the repetition of these words to his own son Kafka, he does not speak as the son but rather assumes authority, speaking in the place of the father, Kafkas father but also Father, Kafkas grandfather. These words are of course part of the discourse of the letter written by Kafka the son and directed to the father. In the unfathomable specular address in Kafkas Letter to his Father, ction and non-ction are blurred. While the Father, referred to in the

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title of the letter, speaks neither simply as the father nor as the child, similarly Kafkas voice necessarily takes the place of father and son with their diverse perspectives. As if in the place of the father gure, Kafka writes: Only later did I come to understand that you really suffered a great deal because of your children (Kafka 1979b, 201). This is Kafka speaking less as a child than as an adult, as a father, the father he was not, even as the father whom he would have liked to have had. To whom is he speaking? If he is addressing his father with compassion, is he not also thinking of his own suffering, as a child before the father perhaps lacking in compassion? In this endless specular address, is he thinking of his own father, in the place of his grandfather, or indeed of the father he might be? The German title of Kafkas letter Brief an den Vater contains the denite article and is translated literally as Letter to the Father rather than Letter to his Father. This leaves the idea of father somewhat more open also to that of the father who is not just his father, Kafkas father, but one who is imagined. In Kafkas text, what is apparent in the specular address with its incessant changing of positions is that there is a reworking at the limits of literature, a recasting of father and son in the encounter of the ctional and the real. It is as if at such a place in the narrative voice, where Blanchots rst man might pronounce the Fiat lux, Kafka recreated himself, engendering through ction and fact, another son, himself, and in effect, also producing in that instant, himself as the father who fathers that son, ostensibly one and the same person. The testimony which is neither ctional nor real recasts a multiplicity of gures of father and son, which are afrmed or in the same move sacriced. Kafkas text shows the ne line which is transgressed, indeed blurred, in the address where neither father nor son simply speaks. In the specular address in Kafkas letter, in particular in the letter from the father at the close, the impossible forgiveness elaborated by Derrida is apparent. In the letter within the letter, where seemingly the father is taking the oor but in fact is brought on stage by the son, it is difcult to distinguish which one of the parties, father or son, by rights is holding that discourse. The accusation of parasitism is levelled at the son by the father, yet this notion of dependency may be more applicable to the father, the father acting as a child.12 Derrida emphasises that one cannot pardon and render innocent at once, in so far as one must identify with the fault; indeed the pardon again carries the fault (Derrida 2005, 5). Innocence and truth are thus not simply on the side of the father but rather father and son incessantly change places, forgiveness always perpetrating the fault again. In the letter in Kafkas letter, the

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father speaks, indeed in Kafkas words; he has a part in Kafkas writing which he cursed. He states:
By now you would have achieved enough by your very insincerity, for you have proved three things: rst, that you are not guilty; second, that I am the guilty one; and third, that out of sheer magnanimity you are ready not only to forgive me but (what is both more or less) also to prove and be willing to believe yourself that contrary to the truth I also am not guilty. That ought to be enough for you now, but it is still not enough. You have put it into your head to live entirely off me. (Kafka 1979b, 234)

In the relentless changing of places of the real and imagined fathers and sons, in the endless speculation of this address in the letter within the letter, it is apparent that Kafka who writes to his father no less addresses himself. In the letter, the narrative voice moves around among all of the players; Kafka speaks as his father and many other gures, as the son he was and the son he would have liked to be. In this testimony, in these archives, forgiveness and fault are at once evident, as Kafka writes about both father and son and living and dying (Kafka 1979b, 236; 2004, 52). Derrida discusses the aporia in which by asking for forgiveness from someone, I would have to experience in his place the wrong which I did to him. Such a replacement of him by me is not simple. In his reading of Kafka, among others, Derrida highlights in the request for forgiveness a place which is unable to be situated, somewhere at the borders of literature. Derrida writes: This question of the asking, this plea [prire] of forgiveness asked for seeks its undiscoverable place [son lieu introuvable], at the edge of literature, in the replacement of this in the place of [ la place de] that we have recognized in the letter of the son to the father as the letter of the father to the son, from the son to the son as from the father to the father (Derrida 2005, 15; 1999, 189). Most importantly, in play in these substitutions are indeed the frontiers of literature, that place without place of Blanchots narrative voice; the abyssal address where it is not known who speaks, be it father or son, indeed neither one nor the other. This is the address of endlessly echoing voices, where no gure could occupy a position of truth, as in Derridas reading of Lacans Seminar on The Purloined Letter (Derrida 1987, 41196; Lacan, 3972); it would be a narrative about the non-narrative, Pardon for not meaning. What is spoken is simply the afrmation of the address itself, the unconditional Here I am which Abraham says to God and to his son Isaac. Derrida writes about the relationship of literature to the question of asking forgiveness for keeping a secret, which could be Pardon for not

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meaning. In so far as literature is a descendant of Abraham, it might both inherit and betray the secret. Abrahams sacrice of his son Isaac shows paradoxically both absolute faithfulness to God and the absolute desacralization of the world (Derrida 2005, 22) or in effect the sacrice of everything. Derrida asks: Is literature the forgiveness asked for desacralization, or as others would say in a religious way, the secularization of a holy revelation [dune sainte rvlation]? A forgiveness asked for the betrayal of the holy origin of forgiveness itself? (Derrida 2005, 23; 1999, 205; see also Levinas 82121) Reecting on the spectral manifestations of literature, Derrida names a section of his text The Father, the Son and Literature. Literature would both inherit from the sacred writings and deny this heritage. Its impossible liation would be in its indelity yet its secular repetition of this heritage, indeed Abrahams secret and the words Pardon for not meaning. Inconceivably, it would tie together such radically detached sons and fathers as Isaac whom Abraham was prepared to sacrice, Hamlet, the king, Kierkegaard, Kafka and their fathers (see Derrida 2005, 9). At such limits of literature, Blanchot describes the neutral narrative voice, evident in Kafkas Letter to his father, and which involves an elaborate substitution of places. Neither real nor ctional, its abyssal address exposes the unknown, perhaps repeating the sacred writings. Derrida writes: Literature would begin there where one no longer knows who writes and who signs the narrative of the call [appel], and of the Here I am! between the absolute Father and Son (Derrida 2005, 9; 1999, 179).

Antelme, Monique et al. (2009), Blanchot dans son sicle, Lyons: Sens Public. Bennington, Geoffrey and Jacques Derrida. (1993), Jacques Derrida, trans. Geoffrey Bennington, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Blanchot, Maurice (1955), LEspace littraire, Paris: ditions Gallimard. Blanchot, Maurice (1969), LEntretien inni, Paris: ditions Gallimard. Blanchot, Maurice (1981), De Kafka Kafka, Paris: ditions Gallimard. Blanchot, Maurice (1982), The Space of Literature, trans. Ann Smock, Lincoln, London: University of Nebraska Press. Blanchot, Maurice (1992), The Step Not Beyond, trans. Lycette Nelson, Albany: State University of New York Press. Blanchot, Maurice (1993), The Innite Conversation, trans. Susan Hanson. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Blanchot, Maurice (1995), Kafka and Literature, The Work of Fire, trans. Charlotte Mandell, Stanford California: Stanford University Press, pp. 1226. Blanchot, Maurice (1999), The Madness of the Day, The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction & Literary Essays, ed. George Quasha, Barrytown; New York: Station Hill Press, pp. 18999.

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Blanchot, Maurice and Derrida, Jacques (2000), The Instant of My Death/Demeure: Fiction and Testimony, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg, Stanford; California: Stanford University Press. Blanchot, Maurice (2003), The Book to Come, Stanford; California: Stanford University Press. Cixous, Hlne (1991), Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector and Tsvetayeva, ed. and trans. Verena Andermatt Conley, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1986), Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, Jacques (1976), Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1978), Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass, London and New York: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (1979a), Living On: Border Lines, Deconstruction and Criticism. Harold Bloom et al., New York: Seabury Press, pp. 75176. Derrida, Jacques (1979b), Spurs: Nietzsches Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1981a), Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson, London: Athlone. Derrida, Jacques (1981b), Economimesis, trans. Richard Klein, Diacritics 11:2, pp. 325. Derrida, Jacques (1982), Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, Brighton: Harvester Press. Derrida, Jacques (1986), Glas, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr and Richard Rand, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Derrida, Jacques (1987), Le Facteur de la vrit, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 41196. Derrida, Jacques (1991a), Cinders, trans. and ed. Ned Lukacher, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Derrida, Jacques (1991b), Given Time 1. Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1992), Before the Law, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge, New York and London: Routledge, pp. 181220. Derrida, Jacques (1993), Aporias: dying awaiting (one another at) the limits of truth, trans. Thomas Dutoit, Stanford; California: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1994), Shibboleth For Paul Celan, trans. Joshua Wilner, in Word Traces, ed. Aris Fioretis, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 372. Derrida, Jacques (1995), The Gift of Death, trans. David Wills, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Derrida, Jacques (1999), Donner la mort, Paris: ditions Galile. Derrida, Jacques (2003), Abraham, lautre, Judits. Questions pour Jacques Derrida, ed. Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly, Paris: Galile, pp. 1142. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation, trans. Adam Kotsko, http://www.adamkotsko.com/weblog/Derrida.Literature.In.Secret. pdf 125. Duras, Marguerite (1966), The Ravishing of Lol Stein, trans. Richard Seaver, New York: Grove. Hoppenot, ric and Daana Manoury (eds) (2008), Maurice Blanchot, de proche en proche, Paris: ditions Complicits. Kafka, Franz (1979a), Before the Law, The Basic Kafka, intro. Erich Heller, New York: Pocket Books, pp. 17481.

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Kafka, Franz (1979b), Letter to his Father, The Basic Kafka, intro. Erich Heller, New York: Pocket Books, pp. 186236. Kafka, Franz (2004), Brief an den Vater, mit einem unbekannten Bericht ber Kafkas Vater als Lehrherr und anderen Materialien, herausgegeben von Hans-Gerd Koch, mit einem Nachwort von Alena Wagnerov, Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagenbach. Kierkegaard, Sren (1970), Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death, trans. with Introductions and Notes by Walter Lowrie, Princeton; New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Lacan, Jacques (1972), Seminar on The Purloined Letter, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, French Freud, Yale French Studies, 48, pp. 3972. Levinas, Emmanuel (1977), Du Sacr au Saint. Cinq nouvelles lectures talmudiques, Paris: Les ditions de Minuit. Melville, Herman (1987), Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street, The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces 183960: The Writings of Herman Melville, 9, ed Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougal, G. Thomas Tanselle, The Northwestern-Newberry Edition, Evanston; Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, pp. 1345. Michaud, Ginette (2006), Tenir au secret (Derrida, Blanchot), Paris: ditions Galile.

1. This section is not in the English publication The Gift of Death which appeared in 1995. I will refer to Adam Kotskos English translation, Derrida 2005, 125. I have sometimes modied the translations quoted in my article. 2. Pardon de ne pas vouloir dire may be translated as Pardon for not meaning, or literally Pardon for not wanting to say. 3. On Kafka, see in particular Derrida Abraham, lautre, 2003 and Before the Law 1992; Cixous 1991 and Deleuze and Guattari 1986. See also Bennington/Derrida 1993, 3315. 4. Derrida writes: Literature will have been meteoric. Like the secret. One calls the meteor a phenomenon, that which appears in the brilliance or the phainesthai of a light, that which is produced in the atmosphere. Like a sort of rainbow (2005, 12). 5. See also Derridas discussion of I have lost my umbrella in Spurs 1979b, 12243. 6. Blanchots title La Voix narrative (le il, le neutre) in LEntretien inni, 556 is translated in The Innite Conversation as The Narrative Voice (the he, the neutral), 379. For recent collections on Blanchot, see Hoppenot and Manoury; Antelme et al. 7. 1. And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of (Genesis, 22. See also Kierkegaard 1970, 27). 8. 7. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the re and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8. And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together (Genesis 22). 9. Derrida writes in The Gift of Death: Abraham had consented to suffer death or worse, and that without calculating, without investing, beyond any perspective of recouping the loss; hence, it seems, beyond recompense or retribution, beyond

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economy, without any hope of remuneration [salaire], p. 95. Derrida refers in a note to his texts Glas, 1986, and Economimesis 1981b. See also Derrida, From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism without Reserve, 1978, pp. 31750 and The Madness of Economic Reason: A Gift without Present, 1991b, pp. 3470. 10. See also Derrida 1979a, 94103; Michaud 2006, 1001. 11. In The Space of Literature, Blanchot states: Writing is the interminable, the incessant. The writer, it is said, gives up saying I. Kafka remarks, with surprise, with enchantment, that he has entered into literature as soon as he can substitute He [le Il] for I. This is true, but the transformation is much more profound. The writer belongs to a language which no one speaks, which is addressed to no one, which has no center, and which reveals nothing (Blanchot 1982, 26; 1955, 17). 12. On parasites, see also Derrida 1982, pp. 3217.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000578

Let the Witness Speak: From Archi-writing to the Community to come

Francesco Vitale
Abstract The paper aims to present a reading of the question of Testimony rising in Derridas later works (from Faith and Knowledge to Poetics and Politics of Witnessing): the experience of Testimony as the irreducible condition of the relation to the Other, of every possible link among living human singularities and, thus, of the thinking of a community to come. This thinking is able to divert the community from the economy grounding and structuring it within our political tradition governed by the metaphysics of presence, which demands the sacrice of the Other in its multiple theoretical and practical forms. We intend to read this proposal and to point out its rich perspectives by bringing it into the articulation of an ethical-political archi-writing. So we suggest going back to Derridas early analyses of phenomenology and to De la grammatologie in order to present a reading of archi-writing as the irreducible condition of the relation to otherness and, thus, of the experience through which a living human singularity constitutes itself, a singularity different from the one our tradition compels us to think of within the pattern of the absolute presence to the self, free from the relation to the other. * My paper focuses on the experience of testimony. It will attempt to testify for testimony. To this purpose I should refrain from quoting. It is for this reason that I will try, as much as possible, to avoid quotations, perhaps precisely to show (I hope it will be understood at the end) that testimony, in its very irreducible singularity, cannot give up the word of the other.1 I would start with some reections elaborated in a just published essay (Vitale 2006), which I devoted to a not well known yet, as far

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as I know, but extraordinary text of Derridas: Faith and Knowledge: the two Sources of Religion at the Limits of Reason alone (2002). Here, through the reading of the concept and the experience of the link, which we inherit from our religion, Derrida aims to trace the ultimate and irreducible structure of the relation to the other as the condition of possibility of the link to others, in view of a community to come, different from the forms of community we know, which rest on identitarian values which are immune or immunizing from any relation to the other as such, and, thus, in view of something for which the name of community is, perhaps, no longer suitable. This is what Derrida says at the beginning of Faith and Knowledge:
That which would orient here in this desert, without pathway and without interior, would still be the possibility of a religio and of a relegere, to be sure but before the link of religare, problematic etymology and doubtless reconstructed, before the link between men as such or between man and the divinity of the God it would also be like the condition of the link reduced to its minimal semantic determination: (. . . ) the respect, the responsibility of repetition in the wager of decision or of afrmation (re-legare) which links up with itself in order to link up with the other. Even if it is called the social nexus, link to the other in general, this duciary link would precede all determinate community, all positive religion, every ontoanthropo-theological horizon. It would link pure singularities prior to any social or political determination, prior to all intersubjectivity, prior even to the opposition between the sacred (or the holy) and the profane. This can therefore resemble a desertication, the risk of which remains undeniable but it can on the contrary also render possible precisely what it appears to threaten. (Derrida 2002, 55)

Derrida intends to trace the irreducible structure of the link to other through the experience of trust, the duciary relation and of the act of faith, before its incorporation in a determinate religion which yet it renders possible. First, Derrida puts into relief two essential elements he considers as characterizing religion: faith and holiness. On the one hand, there is the experience of the holy, the unscathed, the entire, the sound, the safe, the immune, the pure, the proper, the experience of the identity where the removal of the other, in its irreducible singularity, is the elementary condition of a community grounded on the general economy of sacrice.2 On the other hand, you have the experience of belief, faith, trust and the experience of testimony, where the relation to the other is, let us say it now, constitutive.

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Derrida claims to distinguish the experience of faith from the impulse of the holy: they are not the same thing; they do not belong to each other necessarily.3 Our religion would rather be the historical result produced by their articulation, an articulation that religion would be interested in leaving out, that it must leave out: if religion is based on the faith in the holy, to admit the articulation between these two elements already amounts to the statement that there is no relation of immanent necessity between them, that, as they are distinct elements, their articulation may be unfastened and differently distributed. What Derrida intends to do is to separate the experience of faith from the impulse of the holy, and, in this case, he refers almost exclusively to Benvenistes Dictionnary (1969), which is not always quoted in an explicit way. However, the very etymological reconstructions of Benveniste do not seem to leave much space for the act of faith to which Derrida appeals.4 Of course, the relation of trust necessarily implies a relation to the other, but this relation is always determined in view of compensation, refund, or the reintegration of/within the proper. It consists of a relation of bond, debt, submission to an authority in view of a granted benet, a relation bringing about conict and a disruptive impulse towards the other. You submit yourself to the authority of one, the proper, even to the point of self-sacrice, in order to gain protection and a guarantee for yourself against the other, the foreigner, the absolutely other. Moreover, the very structure of the relation of trust allows its incorporation into religious faith and its articulation with the holy: that is what religion actually testies. Then, where would the relation to the other, implicit in the relation of trust, escape religious incorporation and, thus, the community it makes possible? The experience of testimony offers a trace.5 To follow Derrida on the trace of testimony we have to refer again to Benveniste, whom Derrida mentions in a later text, Poetics and Politics of Witnessing (2005). Up to now Derrida seems to follow Benveniste when he resolves religious faith into trust, belief, credit, bond and so on; in this text, he departs from him inscribing into this constellation an element which, according to Benveniste, does not belong to the family of d es, that is, testimony. In the entry dedicated to the religious and superstition Benveniste (1969) reconstructs the stages that caused the ordinary opposition between these two terms.
That [survivor] is not the only use of superstes; to stand beyond . . . does not only mean that you survived an accident, or death but also that you

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have been through an event and you stand beyond it, thus, you have been a witness. Further, that you stand (out) over (stat super) something, you watch it over, you are present to it. That will be the situation of the witness with respect to the event.

However, Benveniste distinguishes superstes from testis, which is the Latin word for witnessing in law: testis is the third part, the superior authority which intervenes as a guarantor in the case of the relation between two individuals at the same level and, thus, submitted to the same authority. On the contrary, superstes is a witness without any guarantee of credit; he asks to be believed without being able to bear proof, without referring to any acknowledged authority but only to belief, to the faith of the other. Thats the way the term survives in superstition, that is, what eludes the authority of ofcial religion, what essentially remains strange or foreign to the constituted order of the community and is even a threat to its integrity. Derrida appeals to the testimony of superstes to retrieve the structure of the relation to the other as the irreducible condition of the link to others. Therefore the irreducible condition of all address to the other would be the blind trust, that is acquiescing to the testimony of the other; of the utterly other who is inaccessible in its absolute source (Derrida 2002, 70). That is trust in the other without any guarantee. How is it possible? Is it not just in such an act of belief that one is exposed to the greatest danger? Does not such an act perhaps conrm the economy of sacrice in its absolute extremity, that is, the resignation of the self in the name of the other to whom one submits oneself without the possibility bringing forward any reason? To the other who can always be a liar, as no authority can guarantee his word within the order of proof or knowledge? To understand how it is possible to remove witnessing from the general economy of sacrice, from the community depending on it, it is necessary to understand why the experience of testimony bears the trace of the irreducible conditions of any relation to the other. What really characterizes the experience of testimony? In fact testimony implies the survival of superstes: the witness as such calls for the belief of the other in relation to an event which he states to have been present to but which is no longer present, which is irreducibly removed from the regime of presentation, which is intuitive, constative, sensible and, thus, separated from the order of proof and knowledge. And this is the case with all testimony. It is possible to elaborate a whole series of verication procedures to inscribe testimony into the regime of proof, within the order of knowledge, and this is the case of religious, legal and scientic

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culture and of the history of their inextricable relations with one another. However, the very necessity of these supplementary historical elaborations testies for the irreducibility of the ultimate condition of testimony. The witness will always bear witness of a past event, which he will have been present to, in its irreducible singularity, but which is no longer present and necessarily non-presentable in its originary presence. Witnessing necessarily requires an act of faith without being able to give any reason for it. But yet, why should you accept things on blind trust? Why should you lay yourself open to what appears to be the greatest danger, the resignation of the self in the name of the other without any guarantee of benet? Because the condition of the witness as a superstes is the irreducible condition of experience. In order to believe in it you must recall the archi-writing which Derrida derives from the deconstruction of the philosophical repression of empirical writing, mainly in Speech and Phenomena (Derrida 1973) and, before that, in his Introduction to Edmund Husserls Origin of Geometry (Derrida 1989). Let us try to retrieve the testimony of these early texts: archi-writing is nothing else than the dynamics of retention, removed from the metaphysical gesture still inhabiting Husserls thinking. In fact he treats retention as homogeneous and continuous with respect to the presence of the living present, which is, according to Husserl, the pure origin of consciousness. Derrida has revealed the incoherence this claim rests on: the absolute presence of consciousness to itself in the living present presupposes the possibility of the immediate presence of consciousness to intuition. This presence, to be such, implies the reference to an intuition maintained through retention, where, however, the intuition is loosed from its immediate living occurrence and, thus, implies the reference to a past which, however near it may be, is not and will never be of the order of presence:
The living present springs forth out of its non-identity with itself and from the possibility of a retentional trace. It is always already a trace . . . . This trace cannot be thought out on the basis of a simple present whose life would be within itself; the self of the living present is primordially a trace. The trace is not an attribute; we cannot say that the self of the living present primordially is it. Being-primordial must be thought on the basis of the trace, and not the reverse. This protowriting is at work at the origin of sense. (Derrida 1973, 85)

Therefore the punctuality of consciousness is deferred through the reference to an intuition which is no longer immediately present, a

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reference which requires recourse to a recollection that cannot present the past presence as such, in its absolute source, but only allege it, or testify to it in the form of a representation. The present, in relation to which consciousness constitutes itself, necessarily has always already been inscribed through retention, in a space virtually accessible to the other, since it has been built in view of a future recognition, rst of all to the other which I am with respect to the punctual present of my past experience. This space, opened up by retention, is the space of the representation, which is already of the order of the constituted trace and is liable to be objectively articulated according to the different degrees of representation: individual memory, sign, language, writing . . . up to the most elaborated forms of idealization belonging to the order of scientic knowledge. This means that, to be able to recognize the past experience as mine, in a moment different from the punctual presence of that experience, I must retain a trace in a form which must not have any adherence to the punctual and living immediacy of the past experience; a form which must already be accessible to me in a moment different from the present of its inscription, that is, a form which is, in principle, always already accessible to others. It must be a trace, that is, it must be an ideal form. On this subject, in the Introduction to Edmund Husserls Origin of Geometry, while Derrida does not speak directly of archi-writing, he was already very clear about the concept and its signicance:
Before the same is recognized and communicated among several individuals, it is recognized and communicated within the individual consciousness: after quick and transitory evidence, after a nite and passive retention vanishes, its sense can be re-produced as the same in the act of recollection; its sense has not returned to nothingness. In this coincidence of identity, ideality is announced as such and in general in an egological subject . . . . Thus, before being the ideality of an identical object for other subjects, sense is this ideality for other moments of the same subject in a certain way, therefore, intersubjectivity is rst the non-empirical relation of Ego to Ego, of my present to other presents as such; i.e., as others and as presents (as past presents). Intersubjectivity is the relation of an absolute origin to other absolute origins, which are always my own, despite their radical alterity. Thanks to this circulation of primordial absolutes, the same thing can be thought through absolutely other moments and acts. We always come back to the nal instants of this: the unique and essential form of temporalization. (Derrida 1989, 86)

This means that in this rst and elementary determination of meaning, where the presence of the self to itself is at stake, the relation to the

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other is already at work as the condition of the possibility of experience and, thus, before any actual relation to the other in such or such other contingent empirical situation. If now we let again the witness speak we observe that we have always already been in the condition of superstes, that through the experience of testimony, we experience the irreducible conditions of experience, that is, not only of the conditions of mere testimony but also of all address to the other.6 In relation to the past presence, to my having been present to something, I have always already been in the condition of being unable to bear proofs of the order of intuitive demonstration and thus, of veriable knowledge, rst of all, I am unable to bear them to myself. I can only testify that I have been present, in the only possible form, that is, by the representation constituted in view of the recollecting iteration, a form which does not imply in itself, which cannot imply, any relation of continuity, homogeneity, and, thus, of necessity to the presence which it can only represent thanks to the retention constituting experience:
Whoever bear witness does not provide proof; he is someone whose experience, in principle singular and irreplaceable (even if it can be crosschecked with others in order to become proof, in order to become probative, in a verication process) attest, precisely, that some thing has been present to him. This thing is no longer present to him, of course, in the mood of perception at the moment when the attestation takes place; but it is present to him, if he alleges this presence, as presently re-presented in memory. (Derrida 2005, 77)

There is no other possible experience of presence but that of posthumous testifying, where I can only decide, promise, bind myself to testify that the representation derived from the past through memory is mine and true, and, thus, as we saw at the beginning, that of the testifying in which I can set a link to myself and, thus, to the other that I am, rst of all, with regard to myself, in a moment different from that of the experience actually present and unspeakable in itself. It is now time to draw some conclusions about the question set at the beginning: that is, the ultimate structure of the link, of the being-with-others, or, at least, a rst outcome, since abyssal questions arise here, which Derrida named the promise, responsibility, oath, perjury, and the messianic. Archi-writing reveals that the relation to the other, before any actual address to the other, in this or that factual and contingent event; is the irreducible condition of experience. If the relation to the other is what renders possible the inscription of presence

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into the form of representation, if it is what allows me to relate myself to my own past experience as an heir and a witness, then the relation to the other is the very possibility to testify to the singularity of my experience; to my being present to myself. Therefore the experience of my singularity is only possible in the form of that testifying, which depends on the originary opening to the other that renders it possible. It is the factual articulation of such conditions of possibility that lets us, I think, grasp in the actual address to the other the ultimate structure of the link to others. In every actual address to the other I ask the other for an act of faith in my testifying since I am not able to bear proofs of the order of demonstration, knowledge and reason. But my testifying and the act of faith required in relation to the other are not only concerned with testifying this or that particular experience, but, rst, with my singularity. The act of faith required in all address to the other is rst and irreducibly concerned with the testifying to my singularity, which, thus, depends on the other, on the act of faith the other without any guarantee, without any reference to a superior authority can or cannot grant to me. It is concerned with my singularity as much as with the singularity of the other: in fact, by testifying my singularity I ask the other to be the judge but also and mainly the witness of my testifying and of my singularity. Thus, I give faith, I necessarily need to give faith to the singularity of the experience of the other and I nd myself in the same conditions as the addressee to whom I am also testifying.7 As we read in the rst quotation from Faith and Knowledge, I necessarily need to link myself to the other in order to set a link to myself and I need to set a link to myself in order to link myself to the other: and this is not the consequence of an empirical and contingent condition, of a fact that could be different, but of the irreducible conditions of experience. Therefore, I think, this is the irreducible structure of the link where the link to myself, the very possibility of my singularity, as well as the singularity of the other, of any other as absolutely other and, thus, inaccessible in its absolute source, are at stake in the link to others without any guarantee or authority. It follows that in its irreducible structure the link to the other does not link a presence with a presence, not even in the form of a consciousness present to itself, it is not of the order of a possible common presence, of a possible identity able to loose and solve differences. It is rather a link which ties together some singularities in the very irreducible inaccessibility of their presence, a link which ties together singularities respecting the innite distance separating the one from the other, since

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every one is absolutely other with regard to the other, a link which does not imply assimilation but the always open possibility of relation, which is what it is only within the innite difference separating every one from any other, from any absolutely other.8 Certainly the structure of the community we know, in the different historical forms we have known it, has been able to incorporate such conditions of linkage, yet by reducing its horizon of possibility in order to protect itself from the threat inscribed in the exposure to the other devoid of any guarantee; it has subdued the link to the order and the economy of an auto-immunizing identity, where the relation to the other is removed as such and, thus, included and submitted to a variable set of constraints, up to the point of extreme sacrice; for example, to a massacre perpetrated on behalf of a pretended innite justice. Derrida allows us to understand that within this dynamic of the self-defence of identity, which the community rests on by repressing, submitting and removing the other, the community removes its own conditions of possibility: therefore, it does threaten itself on behalf of itself, on behalf of its full and safe identity. To liberate the ultimate structure of the link which has always already and, thus, necessarily linked us to the other; to show the horizon of possibilities still open and not completely saturated that this structure implies; to disclose the possibility of thinking of the factual articulations of the link able to do justice to the other in its singularity, that is what, I believe, Derrida wanted to witness and, I rmly believe, is what Derrida asks us to be heirs to, that is, in order to be at the same time, judges and witnesses.

Benveniste, mile (1969), Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-europennes, 2 vol., Paris: Minuit. Derrida, Jacques (1973), Speech and Phenomena; and other Essays on Husserls Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison, Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Derrida, Jacques (1989), Edmund Husserls Origin of Geometry: an Introduction, trans. John P. Leavey, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Derrida, Jacques (2002), Faith and Knowledge: the two Sources of Religion at the Limits of Reason alone, in Acts of Religion, trans. Samuel Weber and ed. Gil Anidjar, New York and London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Poetics and Politics of Witnessing, in Sovereignties in Question: the Poetics of Paul Celan, ed. Thomas Dutoit, Outi Pasanaen, New York: Fordham University Press. Vitale, Francesco (2006), C da darsi. Sulla ducia in Jacques Derrida, Quaderni di comunicazione, 6, pp. 5565.

Let the Witness Speak 269

1. To respect the meaning of this promise, without escaping the claims of proof, I added in the notes the texts which my paper intended to bear witness to, while refraining from quoting them. 2. With regard to the unscathed, Derrida (2002, 61) takes up in a note the entry sacrice (sacrice) from Benvenistes Dictionary (1969), where he deals with the Latin notion evolving from Roman law towards a religious meaning: Indemnis: that which has not suffered damage or prejudice, damnum; this latter word will have given in French dam (au grand dam: to the detriment or displeasure of) and comes from dap-no-m, tied to daps, dapis, that is, to the sacrice offered the Gods as ritual compensation. In this latter case, one could speak of indemni-cation and we will use this word here or there to designate both the process of compensation and the restitution, sometimes sacricial, that reconstitutes purity intact, renders integrity safe and sound, restores cleanliness and property unimpaired. This is indeed what the word unscathed says: the pure non-contaminated, untouched, the sacred and holy before all profanation, all wound, all offence, all lesion. 3. We will not be able to undertake here all the analysis required by distinctions that are indispensable but rarely respected or practised . . . . But among them, before or after them, we will put to the test the quasi-transcendental privilege we believe ourselves obliged to grant the distinction between, on the one hand, the experience of belief (trust, trust-worthiness, condence, faith, the credit accorded the good faith of the utterly other in the experience of witnessing) and, on the other, the experience of sacredness, even of holiness, of the unscathed, that is safe and sound (heilig, holy). These comprise two distinct sources or foci. Religion gures their ellipse because it both comprehends the two foci but also sometimes shrouds their irreducible duality in silence, in a manner precisely that is secret and reticent (Derrida 2002, 72). 4. See the entry Fidelit personnelle (personal faithfulness) in Benvenistes Dictionary, (1969) where he reconstructs the history of the term faith from the oldest use in the Eastern religious contexts to its Christian articulation with the term credo, through the Roman use of des, which was essentially politicalmilitary and economic. 5. Beyond the culture, semantics or history of law moreover intertwined which determine this word or this concept, the experience of witnessing situates a convergence of these two sources: the unscathed (the safe, the sacred, or the saintly) and the duciary (trustworthiness, delity, credit, belief or faith, good faith implied in the worst bad faith) . . . . In testimony, truth is promised beyond all proof, all perception, all intuitive demonstration, even if I lie or perjure myself (and always and especially when I do), I promise truth and ask the other to believe the other that I am, there where I am the only one able to bear witness and where the order of proof or of intuition will never be reducible to or homogeneous with the elementary trust, the good faith that is promised or demanded. The latter, to be sure, is never pure of all iterability nor of all technics, and hence of all calculability. For it also promises its repetition from the very rst instant. It is involved in every address of the other. From the very rst instant it is co-extensive with this other and thus conditions every social bond, every questioning, all knowledge (Derrida 2002, 98). 6. At any rate, even if something unusual and improbable it were still contemporary at the moment of attestation, it would be inaccessible, as perceived presence, to the addressees receiving the testimony who are placed in the order of believing or are asked to place themselves there. The witness marks or declares

270 Francesco Vitale

that something is or was present to him that is not so to the addressee to whom he is joined by a contract, an ought, a promise, by a sworn word, whose performativity is constitutive of the testimony and makes it a pledge, an engagement (Derrida 2005, 77). 7. The addressee of the testimony, the witness of the witness, does not see what the rst witness says she or he saw; the addressee did not see it and never will see it. This direct or immediate non-access of the addressee to the object of the testimony is what marks the absence of this witness of the witness to the thing itself. This ab-sence is essential. It is connected to the speech or the mark of testimony to the extent that the speech can be dissociated from what it is the witness to: for the witness is not present either, of course, presently present, to the extent that he bears witness, at the moment when he bears witness; he is no longer present, now, to what he says he was present to, to what he says he perceived; he is no longer present, even if he says he is present, presently present, here and now, through what is called memory, memory articulated in language, to his havingbeen-present (Derrida 2005, 76). 8. Another tolerance would be in accord with the experience of the desert in the desert; it would respect the distance of the innite alterity as singularity. And this respect would still be religio, religio as scruple or reticence, distance, dissociation, disjunction, coming from the threshold of all religion in the link of the repetition to itself, the threshold of every social or communitarian link (Derrida 2002, 60).

DOI: 10.3366/E175485000900058X

Book Review

Martin Hgglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), 255pp, hb $65.00 (USD), ISBN-10: 080470077X, ISBN-13: 978-0804700771; pb $24.95 (USD), ISBN-10: 0804700788, ISBN-13: 978-0804700788. * At a Strathclyde University conference in 1986, Derrida brought a questioner up short with the comment,
Ive never said nor thought that the metaphysics of presence was an evil . . . . Im inclined to think exactly the contrary, that its good. There is no good outside the metaphysics of presence. (Derrida 1987, 257)

Jonathan Culler, sensing the consternation among many members of the audience who had heard that deconstruction was an attack on the metaphysics of presence, asked Derrida to expand on his remark, and to explain what drives the impetus to deconstruct, which he did, in part, as follows:
I have to deal with Necessity itself. It is something or someone, some x, which compels me to admit that my desire, for good, for presence, my own metaphysics of presence, not only cannot be accomplished, meets its limit, but should not be accomplished because the accomplishment or the fullment of this desire for presence would be death itself; the good, the absolute good, would be identical with death. . . . Necessity is the drive, or the counterdrive; its a drive which bars the fundamental drive towards presence, pleasure, fullness, plenitude, etc. The dream beyond Necessity . . . is the plenitude which wouldnt be death. This combination of dream and necessity explains the indefatigable drive for deconstruction. (Derrida 1987, 2601)

This response probably didnt reduce the perplexity of many in the audience, but it did set out very clearly a nexus that remained central to Derridas thinking throughout his career. In his important and hardhitting new book, Martin Hgglund lucidly delineates the argument by means of which Derrida problematises the desire for plenitude in its various guises, and on the strength of this clarity of insight offers

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trenchant critiques of a number of interpretations of Derridean thought that simplify or distort it. He does ample justice to what Derrida in the comment above calls Necessity, though I shall argue that he does not fully account for what Derrida calls the dream beyond Necessity. Hgglund sets out with admirable clarity the reasoning that leads Derrida from his account of time to the law of autoimmunity, which ties possibility to impossibility, success to failure. Briey, if there can be no such thing as an indivisible now (since the progression to the following now must already be implicit in what is thus a necessarily divided present), time can be seen to possess a trace-structure the temporal continuity between past, present and future is achieved through a remaining that cannot be purely in the dimension of time but must involve space (since only something spatial can last); while space is temporalised, as a trace of the past left for the future. This becomingspace of time and becoming-time of space (captured by Derrida in the neologism diffrance and the notion of arche-writing, for example) means that exposure to the future, and therefore to potential erasure as much as to potential fullment, is constitutive of time. None of this is new, though its implications are often overlooked, and Hgglund goes on to show in a sharper light even than Derrida elected to do how it provides the basis for the latters treatment of the most far-reaching topics, starting with life itself (hence the subtitle of the book). We may think we desire immortality, Hgglund argues, but what we really yearn for is survival: we want our mortal lives to continue. Autoimmunity is the law that governs our existence: that which safeguards is also that which destroys, and an entity has no way of protecting itself against possible attack by its own immune system. Immortality would, therefore, like presence or the absolute good in the comments quoted above, be identical with death. Hgglund works through some of the grounds and implications of this argument in chapters on Derridas engagement with Kant and with Husserl; and in the three chapters that follow he mounts his critique of three elds in which a failure to grasp the essentials of the trace-structure and autoimmunity have led to misunderstandings of Derridas use of such terms as God, hospitality, and justice: the elds of theology, ethics, and political theory. No doubt we can look forward to robust counterarguments from some of those named in these chapters (a special issue of Centennial Review on Radical Atheism is forthcoming, for instance), but Hgglunds account of what so often goes wrong in adopting or adapting Derrida has a great deal of force. The argument that the possibility of evil is inherent in the constitution of the good, that, for example, a promise

Book Review 273

would not be a promise if it could not become a threat, nor democracy democracy if it did not contain the potential to become totalitarian, offends both cherished ideals and the logic of identity. It is all too easy to pull out one strand of the double or triple knot, to make Derrida a negative theologian by overlooking the centrality of nitude in his philosophy, or a normative Levinasian by ignoring the importance of arche-violence in his account of relations with the other, or a latter-day Schmittian by misunderstanding his theory of the autoimmunity implicit in sovereignty. There may be a problem of one-sidedness in Hgglunds own thinking, however. To get at this, let us look at one key term in his, and Derridas, discussions of the relation to other: hospitality. Like autoimmunity in its various manifestations, a concern with the other (which is, in fact, at the heart of autoimmunity) permeates Derridas work from rst to last: the deconstruction of presence, supplementarity, originary pervertibility, destinerrence, spectrality all involve the insinuation of the other into the terrain of the same, without which the same would not be what it is (which means it is not quite what it is usually taken to be). In order for the same to be constituted as what it is, therefore, it has to be open to the other: an other which, by denition, cannot be judged in advance to be constructive or destructive. (As we have seen, Hgglund traces this argument to the fundamental constitution of time, and therefore of life, itself.) Hgglund rightly insists throughout his book that this openness to the other is a necessary fact; without it, nothing at all would happen. An event as an unpredictable occurrence can come about only through exposure to an unknown, unknowable other. So there is a sense in which hospitality to the other (and this, of course, is the only kind of hospitality there can be) is just what occurs; it is necessity. When, at the Strathclyde conference, Derrida referred to Necessity as something which compels me to admit that my desire . . . for presence, not only cannot be accomplished . . . but should not be accomplished he was referring to this unavoidable intrusion of otherness, barring fullment and plenitude but also to the positive importance of this intrusion, without which my desire would not even be partially satised. As Hgglund points out, the should in formulations like this one does not convey moral obligation, but desirability: fullment, were it possible, would not in fact be something we would nd to our liking. Hospitality to the other is an inescapable, and indispensable, feature of life. But we might ask: isnt hospitality a slightly odd word to use in a context of mechanical necessity? Its not unusual, of course, to be

274 Book Review

invited by Derrida to reinvest familiar words with new senses or values; in fact its an important part of Hgglunds argument to alert us to the danger of responding only to the negative connotations of words like contamination or perversion. Hospitality, however, is one of a chain of words with strong normative associations to which Derrida gave increasing attention; others include the gift, forgiveness, democracy, responsibility, invention, and justice. In every case, Derrida argued that these terms, understood in their most complete sense, name an act or a state or a response that is impossible, not just for empirical reasons but essentially so, while at the same time having an indissociable relation to the more common-or-garden acts or states or responses to which we give these names in our daily lives. At rst sight, these concepts (a term I use faute de mieux and with some circumspection in this context) may seem to operate in Derridas writing in the same manner as one of the most fundamental terms appearing in deconstructions sights: presence. Presence, too, as we experience or perceive it in our lives or as it has been used in the Western philosophical tradition, names an impossibility, thanks to the working of diffrance; but at the same time it is only thanks to the working of diffrance that anything like presence is possible. Now it is true that hospitality, justice, and the other words in this series are internally divided in the same way as presence is. If hospitality, in the fullest sense of the word, were possible, it would not look anything like what we call hospitality in a friend or an institution, since it would be without any invitation, any restriction, any nomination; a gift worthy of the name (as Derrida liked to say) would not be apprehensible, as any consciousness of giving by either party would render it imperfect. But our desire for presence is in fact the opposite of the desire for hospitality, for openness to the other, and its realization would not just result in something very different from the presence we dream of but would mark the end of life, time and space. Immortality, another mode of resistance to alterity, would produce the same result. We are saved from their terminal destructiveness only by the necessary interposition of the other. Derridas normative terms work differently. A desire for hospitality (whether as giver or receiver) does not really mean a desire for a limited hospitality what Derrida calls a conditional hospitality (Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000, 25) in the same way that a desire for immortality could be said really to mean a desire for survival. A desire for justice is not really a desire for law. Derridas handling of these and similar concepts suggest a rather different relation between the impossible, unconditional, unconditioned sense and the limited, law-governed,

Book Review 275

sense. One version of that relation is ruled out repeatedly and forcefully by Derrida: the former does not operate as a Kantian regulative idea; it does not stand as a remote ideal that, as nite beings, we can never hope to reach but that we can imagine. Hgglund is very rm on this point, as is Derrida himself here the latter is discussing what he calls the im-possible:
It is not the inaccessible, and it is not what I can indenitely defer: it announces itself; it precedes me, swoops down upon and seizes me here and now in a nonvirtualizable way, in actuality and not potentiality. It comes upon me from on high, in the form of an injunction that does not simply wait on the horizon, that I do not see coming, that never leaves me in peace and never lets me put it off until later. Such an urgency cannot be idealized any more than the other as other can. This impossible is thus not a (regulative) idea or ideal. (Derrida 2005, 84)

What then is our relation to unconditional hospitality? In his repeated attempts to answer this question, Derrida pushes at the limits of conceptual language and conventional morality, attempting to nd a language to articulate what is strictly unthinkable and unarticulable:
To be hospitable is to let oneself be overtaken [surprendre], to be ready to be not ready, if such is possible, to let oneself be overtaken, to not even let oneself be overtaken, to be surprised, in a fashion almost violent, violated and raped [viole], stolen [vole], . . . precisely where one is not ready to receive and not only not yet ready but not ready, unprepared in a mode that is not even that of the not yet. (Derrida 2002a, 361)

But he also asserts repeatedly the inseparability of this absolute hospitality from conditional hospitality, and the insufciency of the latter without its relation to the former:
Just hospitality [i.e., unconditional hospitality] breaks with hospitality by right [i.e., conditional hospitality]; not that it condemns or is opposed to it, and it can on the contrary set and maintain it in a perpetual progressive movement; but it is as strangely heterogeneous to it as justice is heterogeneous to the law to which it is yet so close, from which in truth it is indissociable. (Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000, 257) Conditional laws would cease to be laws of hospitality if they were not guided, given inspiration, given aspiration, required, even, by the law of unconditional hospitality. (Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000, 79) Only an unconditional hospitality can give meaning and practical rationality to a concept of hospitality. Unconditional hospitality exceeds juridical, political, or economic calculation. But no thing and no one happens or arrives without it. (Derrida 2005, 149)

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We have, therefore, two kinds of hospitality, heterogeneous yet indissociable, incompatible yet coupled; and the inevitably limited hospitality that we exercise or receive in our lives is in some way informed by (set and maintained by, guided and given inspiration by, given meaning and practical rationality by, are among the expressions Derrida uses) the impossible, unthinkable, unconditional twin. The struggle to articulate the relationship between the two faces of hospitality indicates its resistance to thought, and it is not surprising that in extrapolations of Derridas argument the relationship often slips into the more easily apprehensible structures of regulative idea or dialectical interchange indeed, Derridas own language often comes very close to these alternatives. Deconstruction, writes Derrida, is hospitality to the other (Derrida 2002a, 364), just as he writes Deconstruction is justice (Derrida 1990, 15) (whereas he would not have written Deconstruction is presence). Which version of hospitality is this? clearly, it must be unconditional hospitality; there would be no deconstruction if it set limits to its openness in advance, if it knew who or what would arrive, if the event it brought about were in any way predictable. Of course, its absoluteness is immediately compromised: impossible pure deconstruction, in its very openness to the other, is impure from the start. Similarly, justice, always a matter of singular judgements made in the context of general rules, is at once absolute and compromised by laws and rights, memory and consciousness.1 And, as Hgglund rightly insists, such openness can always lead to the worst as well as the best. Now let us examine Hgglunds account of hospitality. For him, a hospitality worthy of the name is not Derridas unconditional hospitality but a distinctly conditional hospitality:
If I did not discriminate between what I welcome and do not welcome, what I nd acceptable and unacceptable, it would mean that I had renounced all claims to be responsible, make judgments, or pursue any critical reections at all. . . . An ethics of unconditional hospitality would short-circuit all forms of decisions and be the same as a complete indifference before what happens. (103)

Accordingly, for Hgglund, unconditional hospitality exerts no ethical claims indeed, he asserts that Derrida deconstructs the ethics of unconditional hospitality (1034), on the model, presumably, of the deconstruction of presence. We recognise here the logic of the absolute as death exemplied in Derridas Strathclyde comments. We may desire to exercise unconditional hospitality, but if we could, it would be disastrous; fortunately,

Book Review 277

Necessity the necessity of limits, rights, and so on prevents us from achieving this ultimate perfection. Hgglunds formulations make good sense, but they dont sound quite like Derridas; they dont give the impression of grappling with an unthinkable relation, they dont struggle to articulate the necessary link between the unconditional and the conditional. Going back to those Strathclyde comments, we recall that Derridas answer to Cullers question about the drive to deconstruct was an appeal to a combination of necessity and dream, the necessity of limits and laws and the dream of a plenitude that wouldnt be death. Even after the deadliness of plenitude has been exposed there remains a dream that it might be otherwise; and even after the emptiness of immortality or the riskiness of hospitality have been made evident the desire they provoke remains strong. Hgglund is insistent that Derridas representations of justice, hospitality, the gift have no ethical content; unconditional hospitality may have terrible consequences as well as wonderful ones. But Hgglunds careful arguments do have ethical implications. For instance, he explains the problematic indissociability of conditional and unconditional hospitality on the grounds that it is the exposure to the visitation of others that makes it necessary to establish conditions of hospitality, to regulate who is allowed to enter (104). The moral appears to be: be circumspect when you welcome a stranger, because the unruly force of unconditionality can always disrupt your careful plans. Similarly, because a gift must be contaminated in order to be a gift (37), any act of giving had better not strive for purity. The judge in her exercise of justice needs to be aware that the risk of injustice is inscribed in the very possibility of justice (43); fortunately, the law is there to function as an immune protection for justice (42). To be sure, to put it like this is to push Hgglunds argument further than he intends it to go; but I do it in order to underline the difference between what I can only call the ethical tone of Derridas writing and his own. We readers of Derrida ought to be grateful to Hgglund for being so severe with us when we move too quickly to derive moral or religious prescriptions from the formers work, and that is not what I am doing here. I am concerned, however, to understand the difference between Derridas wrestle with the notion of hospitality to the other and Hgglunds resolute anti-ethicism. In order to do so it will be helpful to turn to Levinas. Its perhaps not much of an argument to say that if Hgglund is correct about the difference between Levinass and Derridas arguments, the latters huge admiration for the former is rather hard to explain. One

278 Book Review

can assume a certain degree of exaggeration in comments of Derridas such as Before a thought like Levinass, I never have an objection. I am ready to subscribe to everything he says (Derrida and Labarrire 1986, 74; my translation); one can allow for the particular circumstances of a funeral eulogy or commemorative conference in assessing the praise expressed in Adieu: to Emmanuel Levinas (1999). But there must be some basis for the clear indebtedness Derrida felt to Levinas, and for the frequent references to him when discussing concepts like hospitality and justice. This basis, I would argue, can be found in the power of Levinass depiction of the ethics of alterity. There is no doubt about the considerable divergences between Levinass and Derridas understandings of what hospitality to the other implies; Derrida rst made these differences clear in Violence and Metaphysics (1978), rst published in French in 1964, and although the tone in A Word of Welcome (1999, 15152), delivered in 1996, has altered signicantly, they are still evident. Nevertheless, Levinass emphasis on an openness to the other that is absolute, a responsibility that is irrecusable, an ethics that is not about prescriptions and moral codes, profoundly inuenced Derridas thought. For Levinas, my encounter with the other is not an encounter with an empirical individual whom I can identify and size up: it is prior to any of the processes of judgement or classication. The other is neither good nor bad, neither deserving nor undeserving; it is an embodied, singular source of a demand which is also an appeal. And I am not invited to take responsibility for it; I nd myself responsible, my subjectivity in fact constituted by that responsibility. Hgglunds assertion that Levinas refuses to realize that alterity cannot be ethical as such and that his philosophy requires that alterity ultimately answers to the Good (90) is misleading, since it is in responding to the other that the ethical arises, and part of Levinass challenge to conventional ethics is his insistence that innite responsibility is owed to the other without consideration of its goodness or badness, without forethought about likely consequences. This ethical response is far from prescriptive, however, since one is innitely responsible whether one is aware of it or not, whether one accepts it or not. Levinas does argue that everyday morality and politics gains by being informed by the ethics of the face-to-face encounter, but does not succeed in explaining how this works much as Derrida has difculty in explaining how his absolutes inspire their limited partners. Derridas non-ethical opening of ethics, then, is not far removed from what Levinas calls ethics; for both, the encounter with the singular other is pre-prescriptive, and any prescriptions operative in

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the world are made possible by it. Levinas and Derrida both stress the passivity involved in absolute hospitality, and the latter, in a parenthesis distancing his argument from Kants appeal to duty, associates it with grace: If I practice hospitality out of duty. . . , this hospitality of paying up is no longer an absolute hospitality, it is no longer graciously offered beyond debt and economy (Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000, 83). But this does not mean that there is no value attached to absolute hospitality, as Hgglund seems to suggest. A purely calculated hospitality (Hgglunds discrimination between what I welcome and what I do not welcome) would not be hospitality at all; the decision to be hospitable must, like any decision, pass through the undecidable, and hence take place beyond calculation: it is the other who decides, as Derrida liked to say. So normativity is indeed at work in Derridas thinking; his choice of the word hospitality, like his choice of the words justice, forgiveness, and so on, is not made in simple deance of their normative force. To exercise justice is to carry out the necessary calculation, to weigh and balance and draw on legal and historical knowledge, but it is also to move beyond calculation in inventing the law afresh for a singular case (see Derrida 1990). We nd similar language in Derridas discussion of unconditional hospitality: a hospitality invented for the singularity of the new arrival (Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000). When Hgglund states that Nothing can establish a priori that it is better to be more hospitable than to be less hospitable (or vice versa) (105; and see the very similar statement on 187), he is referring to the calculation of outcomes. But ethics, for Derrida (as for Levinas), is not a matter of calculation, and there can surely be no doubt that hospitality, justice, forgiveness, inventiveness, giving are goods in an individual, in an institution,2 in a society precisely because they involve risk, because their relation to absolutes (difcult though that is to understand or articulate) makes possible actions that are not pre-programmed or secured in the self-same. Hence the importance of deconstruction as afrmation; for instance, in an interview with Richard Kearney in 1981, Derrida used strikingly Levinasian language:
Deconstruction always presupposes afrmation. . . I mean that deconstruction is, in itself, a positive response to an alterity which necessarily calls, summons, or motivates it. (Derrida 1995, 1678)

Deconstructions rapport with the other is described in somewhat different terms in Psyche, where Derrida describes the invention of the

280 Book Review

other that would come . . . to offer a place for the other, to let the other come:
I am careful to say let it come because if the other is precisely what is not invented, the initiative or deconstructive inventiveness can consist only in opening, uncloseting, destabilizing foreclusionary structures so as to allow for the passage toward the other. (Derrida 1992, 341)

Deconstruction as an activity cannot make the other come, but can unsettle existing structures that inhibit its coming. In its openness to the other, it can always lead to evil consequences, as Hgglund would remind us at this point; but Derridas tone here and in a hundred other places indicates that this risk-taking, afrmative attitude is preferable to its opposite. Pure justice, absolute forgiveness, unconditional hospitality: all these are impossible and unthinkable, constitutively open to contamination from the rst, and without guarantee as to outcome; but without them there would be no justice, forgiveness, or hospitality of any kind, there would only be law, calculation, self-interest. Hgglund has shown superbly how Derridas account of time underlies his explorations of these ethical topics, and how unlike traditional ethical postures the results are; but what is missing from his account is Derridas reinvention of ethics, a philosophical adventure that was not divorced, as many who knew him can testify, from his own practice of living. DEREK ATTRIDGE University of York
DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000591

Attridge, Derek (forthcoming), Posthumous Indelity: Derrida, Levinas, and the Third, in Hospitalities of Mourning, ed. Tony Thwaites and Jude Seaboyer. Derrida, Jacques (1978), Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas, in Writing and Difference, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 79153. Derrida, Jacques (1987), Some Questions and Responses, The Linguistics of Writing: Arguments between Language and Literature, ed. Nigel Fabb, Derek Attridge, Alan Durant and Colin MacCabe, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 25264. Derrida, Jacques (1990), Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority, Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, New York: Routledge, 1992, pp. 367. Derrida, Jacques (1992), Psyche: Invention of the Other, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge, New York: Routledge, pp. 31043.

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Derrida, Jacques (1995), Deconstruction and the Other: Interview with Richard Kearney, States of Mind: Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers, ed. Richard Kearney, New York: New York University Press, pp. 15676. Derrida, Jacques (1999), Adieu: To Emmanuel Levinas. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques (2002a), Hostipitality, Acts of Religion, ed. Gil Anidjar, New York: Routledge, pp. 356420. Derrida, Jacques (2002b), The University without Condition, Without Alibi, ed. Peggy Kamuf, Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 20237. Derrida, Jacques (2005), Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques and Anne Dufourmantelle (2000), Of Hospitality, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Derrida, Jacques and Pierre-Jean Labarrire (1986), Altrits, Paris: Osiris.

1. In responding to Levinass account of the relation between ethics and justice or politics, Derrida repeatedly insists that the latter the third, in Levinass account does not wait, but is already implicated in the face-to-face ethical relationship. He thus departs signicantly from Levinas while claiming to be faithful (Attridge forthcoming). 2. For a clearly normative use of the notion of the unconditional, see Derridas The University without Condition, where he asserts that the modern university should be without condition (2002b, 202).

Notes on Contributors

Lisa Guenther is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, in the United States. She is the author of The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction (SUNY Press, 2006), as well as articles on Heidegger, Beauvoir, Levinas and Agamben. She is currently working on the phenomenology and politics of shame. Laurie Johnson is Senior Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies and a member of the Public Memory Research Centre at the University of Southern Queensland. He is the author of The Wolf Mans Burden (Cornell University Press, 2001) and has published several articles and book chapters on cyber studies and games studies, literary theory, phenomenology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. Gerasimos Kakoliris is Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Athens, while he also teaches European Philosophy in the Hellenic Open University, Greece. He has published a book on Derrida and Deconstructive Reading in Greek as well as various papers on this topic and more generally on language, theories of reading, Foucault, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. He is currently working on Derrida and hospitality. Marguerite La Caze is a Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Queensland. She has research interests and numerous publications in European philosophy and feminist philosophy in the elds of ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Her publications include The Analytic Imaginary (Cornell, 2002) and Integrity and the Fragile Self, with Damian Cox and Michael Levine (Ashgate, 2003). Her papers on Derridas work in relation to that of Immanuel Kants and the concepts of hospitality, forgiveness, and autoimmunity have been published in Philosophy Today, Political Theory, Philosophy and Social Criticism and Contemporary Political Theory. She has also published papers on the work of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hannah Arendt, Michle Le Duff and Luce Irigaray. Blair McDonald is a Phd candidate at the Centre of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Notes on Contributors


Martin McQuillan is Professor of Cultural Theory and Analysis at the University of Leeds, UK. His recent publications include Deconstruction after 9/11 (Routledge, 2008) as well as the twin volumes Deconstruction Reading Politics (Macmillan 2008) and The Politics of Deconstruction (Pluto Press, 2007). Nicole Pepperell is a lecturer in social theory at RMIT University, where she is currently completing her doctoral dissertation on how Marx conceptualises the standpoint of critique in the rst volume of Capital. Her research interests include the emergence of classical social theory and political economy, twentieth century critical theories, the contemporary rise of new forms of materialism, and the relationship between shifts in critical ideals and changing potentials for social transformation. Julia Ponzio is a Researcher in Philosophy and Theory of Languages at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bari, Italy where she teaches Semiotics and Semiotics of text. Her works include: Il presente sospeso. Alterit appropriazione in Heidegger e Levinas (Suspended Present: alterity and appropriation in Heidegger and Levinas, Bari: Cacucci, 2000); Il ritmo della scrittura. Tempo, alterit comunicazione (Rhythm of Writing. Time, Alterity and Communication, Bari: Schena, 2005); Language, time and the Other, in Analecta husserliana, Phenomenology of logos, logos of phenomenology, Vols. LXXXVIII-XCII, Springer, 2006; and Politics not left to itself, in Levinas, Law, Politics, edited by M. Diamantides, London: Glasshouse Press, 2007. Caroline Sheaffer-Jones teaches French literature and philosophy in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She has published widely on Blanchot, as well as on Camus, Cocteau, Derrida, Genet, Kofman and Levinas, and recently Congurations of a Heritage: lisabeth Roudinescos Philosophes dans la tourmente, Contemporary French Civilization: An Interdisciplinary Journal Devoted to the Study of French-Speaking Cultures Throughout the World, 33: 1, (2009), 10122. Dimitris Vardoulakis is lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and honorary fellow at Monash University. His monograph The Doppelgnger: Literatures Philosophy is forthcoming by Fordham University Press. Other edited or co-edited volumes include Spinoza Now (Minnesota University Press, forthcoming); Benjamin and Heidegger (Continuum, forthcoming); Kafkas Cages (forthcoming);

284 Notes on Contributors

The Political Animal (in Substance journal, 2008); After Blanchot (Delaware University Press, 2005), and The Politics of Place (in Angelaki journal, 2004). He is the author of numerous articles published in English and Greek and he has translated two books into Greek. Francesco Vitale lectures in the Department of Philosophy, University of Salerno, Italy. He is a member of the European Foundation of Drawing directed by the artist Valerio Adami. His research interests have been focusing on Derridas work since the Ph.D. dissertation on Derridas relation to Hegel.

DOI: 10.3366/E1754850009000608