With the recent publication of Jacques Derrida’s seminar of 1964–65, Heidegger: The Question of Being and History, it has become abundantly clear that when the full history of Derrida’s half-century-long engagement with Heidegger is finally written a special place will have to be reserved for the question of history itself, and especially the question of history or historicity in its irreducible relationship to language and to violence. In this essay, I look at just a few key passages from “Violence and Metaphysics,” first published in 1964, and Derrida’s seminar on Heidegger from that same year in order to try to isolate what appears to be an important transitional moment in Derrida’s rethinking of the questions of language, violence, and history, in large part, it seems, thanks to, or accompanied by, Heidegger. Indeed, while Derrida’s engagement with Heidegger over the next four decades will go on to include questions of technology, the animal, species difference, sexual difference, and so on, the relationship between language, history, and violence that came to draw his attention in the early 1960s and that would be crucial to what Derrida will go on to call deconstruction will continue to haunt him, as I will suggest in conclusion, right up to his very last seminar, The Beast and the Sovereign, in 2002–2003.
Jacques Derrida has written much in recent years on the topic of mourning. This essay takes Derrida's insights into mourning in general and collective mourning in particular in order to ask about the relationship between mourning and politics. Taking a lead from a recent work of Derrida's on Jean-François Lyotard, the essay develops its argument through two examples, one from ancient Greece and one from twentiethcentury America: the role mourning plays in the constitution and maintenance of the state in Plato's Laws and the controversy surrounding the consecration of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier of Vietnam in Arlington National Cemetery. This latter example provides the occasion for questioning the possibilities of mourning the unknown or the unidentifiable and for addressing some of the ways in which the United States has mourned or failed to mourn, remembered or failed to remember, in the wake of September 11.
During the final decade of his life, Jacques Derrida came to use the trope of autoimmunity with greater and greater frequency. Indeed it today appears that autoimmunity was to have been the last iteration of what for more than forty years Derrida called deconstruction. This essay looks at the consequences of this terminological shift for our understanding not only of Derrida's final works (such as Rogues) but of his entire corpus. By taking up a term from the biological sciences that describes the process by which an organism turns in quasi-suicidal fashion against its own self-protection, Derrida was able to rethink the very notion of life otherwise and demonstrate the way in which every sovereign identity, from the self to the nation-state to, most provocatively, God, is open to a process that both threatens to destroy it and gives it its only chance of living on.
This essay attempts to lay out the three principal theses of Jacques Derrida's 1994–1995 "Faith and Knowledge," Derrida's most sustained but also most challenging work on the nature of religion and the relationship between religion and science. After demonstrating through these three theses that religion and science not only share a common source—or have a common genesis—but are in what Derrida calls an autoimmune relationship to one another, the essay puts these theses to the test by reading a brief passage near the middle of the essay where Derrida recounts the genesis of "Faith and Knowledge" itself. Derrida's seemingly anecdotal recounting of this genesis is thus shown to reflect the three theses of "Faith and Knowledge," the way in which, in a word, the breath of creation, or the miracle of religion, is always doubled, supplemented, and thus contaminated by the machine of science and tele-technology.
This essay traces the history of Jacques Derrida’s engagement with the question of the animal and the methodology Derrida follows in his 2008 The Animal That Therefore I Am. As Derrida demonstrates, the history of philosophy is marked from its inception by an attempt to draw a single, indivisible line between humans and all other animals by attributing some capacity to humans (e.g., language, culture, mourning, a relationship to death) and denying it to animals. Derrida thus begins by questioning the supposed fact that animals do not have such and such a capacity or attribute but then quickly turns to questioning the principle by which philosophers have claimed that humans do. In all his work on the animal, therefore, Derrida questions the confidence with which humans attribute certain capacities to themselves while denying them to animals, all in the name of a pervasive and yet repressed violence against the animal world.
In his final seminar, The Beast and the Sovereign, vol. 2 (2002–2003), Jacques Derrida spends the entire year reading just two texts, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Martin Heidegger’s Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. This essay looks in detail at Derrida’s treatment of this latter and, in particular, at Derrida’s emphasis on the Heideggerian notion of Walten (as sovereign power or originary violence) in this work. The essay begins by considering several of Derrida’s prior engagements with Heidegger, especially in Of Spirit and the “Geschlecht” essays, and their analyses of such themes as Geist or spirit, sexual and species difference, violence, and ontotheology. The essay then develops the relationship between what Derrida considered to be the hyper-sovereignty of Walten and Derrida’s own notions of autoimmunity and différance, before concluding with the question of why Derrida would think it necessary to devote so much of his final seminar to this Heideggerian notion.
In the course of the research project “Revenge of the Sacred: Phenomenology and the Ends of Christianity”, a group of scholars based at the University of Vienna attempts to understand a modern society that is seemingly no longer Christian, yet also not yet non-Christian. How does the citizen negotiate the ambiguities between the religious and the political in this ambivalent space that seems to be becoming increasingly “post-secular” in a way that is not necessarily “anti-secular?” We explore the core of these and other questions with contemporary scholars in a series of interviews entitled “What moves you? Human Rights, Hearts, Beliefs – and Beyond.” This interview was conducted with the Derrida specialist, professor, and translator Michael Naas (De Paul University, IL, U.S.). It covers the topics of globalization, migration, hospitality, all in the context of human rights, secularism, and religion today.