Deconstruction is rather the thought, if it is a thought, of an absolute heterogeneity that unsettles all the assurances of the same within which we comfortably ensconce ourselves. That is the desire by which it is moved, which moves and impassions it, which sets it into motion, toward which it extends itself. But let there be no mistake: "early on" deconstruction does delimit the metap hysical side of theology.
Still, is that not an honorable and hoary religious project? Does it not have an honorable name, the name of "dehellenizing Christianity," more generally of " dehellenizing biblical faith"? I s i t not i n step with Abraham Heschel's remarkable extrication o f the.
Even early on, the effect of deconstruction on theology-by which I mean the attempt to bring faith to discursive form-and in particular on negative theology, is not to defame theology but to reinscribe it within the trace and, by putting "hyperessentialism" in its place, to resituate negative theology within faith. For the "hyperessentialism" of negative theology, which Derrida delimits, would shatter faith and turn it into union, into oneness with the One, "but then face to face," which is to get impatient with glas and jump the gun. That hyperousiological high for Derrida has always been so much hype.
But on the view that I take, a deconstructive theology would find it necessary to deny hyperessentialism in order to make room for faith. Deconstruction saves apophatic theology from telling a bad story about itself, about how it speaks from the Heart of Truth, and how the rest of us had better get in line with it. Or else! That kind of Truth always implies a threat, a dangerous triumphalism. Deconstruction saves the name of negative theology by subjecting it to the same necessity that besets us all, the same ii faut Psy.
Deconstruction saves negative theology from closure. Closure spells exclusion, exclusiveness; closure spills blood, doctrinal, confessional, theological, political, institutional blood, and eventually, it never fails, real blood. Salus in sanguine. Pro deo et patria spells big trouble, with big words, master words, that need deconstructing. I pray God to rid me of God, said a master of Lesen und Leben. Let us establish this simple negation, a first principle almost , which, because of its simplicity and its self-assured authority, we will be obliged.
God Is Not differance in various and diverse ways to take back to denegate : God is not diffirance. Already we have had to delineate that diferance is not, does not exist, is not a present-being on in any form; and we will be led to delineate everything that it is not, that is, everything; and consequently that it has neither existence nor essence. It derives from no category of being, whether present or absent.
That is because negative theology is always a higher, more refined way of affirming that God exists, or hyperexists, or exists-by-not-existing, that God is really real or hyper-real or sur-real. God exists so purely, so perfectly that as soon as we make this affirmation we have to take it back, taking back not only the "is" but even the name of "God.
Derrida has consistently maintained this view, and I think has been consistently right, although he has by no means thereby cut out the heart of negative theology nor does this lay a glove on what he calls "my religion". Hence, if we find Derrida saying that diferance is neither a word nor a concept, that there is no name for what he means to say, that is not because Derrida has been breathlessly overtaken by a being of such supereminence that, his heart afire, words fail him and he finds himself lost for words dream on! Hence if diferance is a certain nomen innominabile, it is not a mystical but a grammatological one.
If Derrida is right, diferance is older than the name of being, older than any name, is not itself a name, in the French language or any other, which is why he deformed the word. The namelessness of diferance does not consist in being an unnameable being but in pointing to the differential matrix that generates names and concepts, in which they are produced as effects.
Of course, as Richard Rorty points out, and as Derrida would concede, that is only true the first few times Derrida uses this non-word? As soon as it was coined, uttered, and repeated often enough, as soon as hoards of poststructuralist assistant professors who desire tenure and who knows what else swarmed all over it, it began to catch on, to link up, and it became itself another more or less stable nominal unity, one more effect of the differential matrix of which it means to be no more than an indicator, a mute finger pointing to the moon, which too soon assumed a place of honor in the lexicon of deconstruction as one of Derrida's most famous words.
So it would be a serious misunderstanding to think that diffiraJlce is a master name, the secret, hidden name of Being beyond Being, the hidden name of a presence so pure that it cannot itself appear and be present except by means of the imperfect traces of itself that it leaves behind as it withdraws from the world seated on a cloud of unkno w in g.
D iferallce is not the trace left behind by the deus absconditus but the coded tracing within which are generated all names and concepts, all the relatively stable nominal unities, including the name of the unknown God, or G-d, or Gottheit, including even itself, the name differance. It is not announced by any capital letter. Not only is there no kingdom of diferance, but diferance instigates the subversion of every kingdom. That is well said, for now, early on.
But, as with everything else, one has to speak so us rature, with a measure of sic et non. I have not given up on every kingdom, on the coming, or the incoming, l 'illvention, of every kingdom, and Derrida has not given up on the messianic. I pray you, je vous prie, be patient. Derrida' s delimitation of negative theology is made perfectly clear by an adroitly chosen text of Meister Eckhart.
The Meister is one of the best examples-"and what an example! That is why, when he was accused of-instead of being congratulated for-denying Being to God, Meister Eckhart said:8 When I said that God was not a Being and was above Being, I did not thereby contest his Being, but on the contrary a ttributed to him a more elevated Being. That is why Eckhart was able to write, to the puzzlement of his commentators and to the consternation of the Inquisitors, both that God is esse while creatures are a pure nothing not even a little bit , and that God is an absolute nothing, a naked desert, while being is the first of all creatures.
The affirmation of God's being has to be continually purified by a denial of Being of God. Given the similarities between the syntactical and rhetorical resources of deconstruction and negative theology, John Dominic Crossan rightly asks, "Why, then, are the syntactics so similar if the semantics are so different? If God is understood as transcending the phenomenal world, one cannot hope to describe Him because language is restricted in its scope to the realm of the phenomenal. Similarly, if diferance enables concepts to emerge it cannot be described adequately by concepts Y. Although I think that Derrida would say not transcendental but "quasi-transcendental.
If Derrida admires the discursive resources of negative theology, he begs to differ with it insofar as negative theology turns out, upon analysis, to be actually a higher way to trump language and representation, to jump out of the skin of diferal1ce and the trace, by means of a hyper-being which exceeds our powers to speak or name it. So when the negative theologian, falling upon our breast and looking up to heaven, sighs that she cannot name or say a thing about God, she also knows, in secret, even if she knows by unknowing, that if we call the Vatican guards on her, she has.
God Is Not differance an answer. Way down deep, negative theologians know what they are talking about; they have not entirely lost their way or their balance; they are not destinerrant. As a hyperousiology, negative theology drops anchor, hits bottom, lodges itself securely in pure presence and the transcendental signified, every bit as much as any positive onto-thea-logy, and in a certain sense more so. Far from providing a deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence, negative theology crowns the representations of metaphysics with the jewel of pure presence, and effects in a still higher way, eminentiore modo, the triumph of presence over representation.
To that extent, deconstruction is its nemesis. But that does not have the effect of leveling or razing negative theology, but rather of liberating negative theology from the Greek metaphysics of presence in which it is enmeshed and forcing it to come up with a better story about itself than the hyperousiological one that it has inherited not from the Bible but from Neoplatonism. The deconstruction of theology re-commits theology to the grammatological flux fro m whence negative theology would take its leave.
The last thing that could be claimed in deconstruction is that one has reached the point of ineffability, of silent union, beyond words and concepts, with the One. It would always be too late to say that. If Derrida is fascinated by the syntactics, pragmatics, and rhetoric of this discourse that is driven, sparked, and solicited by the impossible, it is because it arises from a certain shattering, a breakdown of conventional discursive resources, but one that cannot, in virtue of diffirance, be understood as something utterly nonlinguistic.
That is why the effect of negative theology is always so verbal and verbose-so grammatological-and why these lovers of wordlessness are so exces-. Derrida wants to hold the hand of negative theology to the fire of its word to the word : that it does not know what is happening, that it is exposed to something elusive, amorphous, undeterminable, sans savoir, sans avoir, sans voir Parages, 25 , so that one is not sure whether this is God, or il y a, or a bit of indigestion. Faith is a certain resolve to hold on by one's teeth, to put one's hand to the plow, to push on in the midst of the grammatological flux, to repeat forward, to say oui today knowing that this must be repeated later on tonight, and then again tomorrow morning, again and again, oui, oui, which is why monastic prayers were hourly.
A transcendental condition is a sufficient and enabling condition; a quasi-transcendental condition is insufficient and equi-disabling, seeing that the effect that it makes possible is also made unstable. Transcendental conditions nail things down, pin them in place, inscribe them firmly within rigorously demarcated horizons; quasi-transcendental conditions allow them to slip loose, to twist free from their surrounding.
God Is Not differance horizons, to leak and run off, to exceed or overflow their margins. But a quasi-transcendental condition is a condi tio n of or for entities, not an entity itself; a condition under which things appear, but too poor and impoverished, too unkingly, to dictate what there is or what there is not, lacking the power to bring what is not into being, lacking the authority to prohibit something from being.
Differance describes the languages of faith and prayer which, as Derrida' s work evolves, prove t o be not just particular examples o f language, but exemplary uses that exceed linguistic categorization and tend to coincide with language itself, to become the very yes, or amen, of language to what is happening.
Jacques Derrida: Stop Watching Seinfeld
That is why deconstruction is not ultimately neutral. God has not been waiting from all eternity for differance to come into the world to settle His affairs or Hers. Diferance does not settle the God question one way or the other; in fact, the point is to un-settle it,15 to make it more difficult, by showing that, even as we love the name of God, we must still ask what it is we love. One of the smarter things Nietzsche said about God is that atheism too represents the ascetic ideal, which is the desire to pin things down, to put them firmly in their place.
Diferance will lead us up to a point, to be discussed below, of endless translatability and substi tutability, to the point of what Derrida calls "exemplarism," where we do not know what is an example of what, where things become unnervingly open-ended. For differance makes-or should make; this is part of the ethics of deconstruction-the theist worry about what we affirm when we affirm our God, even as it makes the atheist worry about what is denied when God is being denied. For there are idols of belief and of unbelief, graven images being affirmed and denied every d ay.
If the affir-. But do not expect diferallce to settle these disputes; diferance has not come to bring peace but the two-edged sword of undecidability. That is why I am unhappy with Mark Taylor's first, interesting and innovative adaptation of Derrida, early on, in Erring, in which he too closely assimilated Derrida to the theology of the "death of God.
He situates himself within the crucial Derridean gesture of undecidability, inasmuch as it is not the business of differance to show either that there is or is not a God, but only how much trouble we have bought for ourselves once we venture out into the troubled waters of judgment and decision-about God or anything else. The problem with Erring is that it is insufficiently aporetic, that it allows itself to be led straight down the path poreia inerrantly I would say, of the death of God, fully equipped with a grand recit in terms of which the Gottestod is announced.
In the final scene, God has become ecriture with nothing left over. The sacred scripture has become all there is of the sacred itself: God as glyph, hier-glyph. The provisional neutrality of diferance is not a neutral neutrality but, to take up Kierkegaard's wonderful expression, an armed neutrality, which means that it is even-handedly antagonistic to all claims of existence or nonexistence, that it views them all with a certain alarm and suspicion.
It plays no favorites when existence claims are afoot, but gives all parties to the dispute an equally hard time. Deconstruction shows the limits under which discourse labors when "someone says something to someone about something" hermeneia. Diferallce is neutral by being uniformly nasty about letting vocabularies establish their credentials and get set in place, as if they really were making good in some strong sense on their claims. Its neutrality lies in its unremitting and unbiased antagonism, which does not single out theologians for particular abuse but which is equally hostile.
God Is Not differance to all ontological claims, across the board. Deconstruction is, for example, just as inhospitable to empiricists and phenomenologists who talk about the "perceptual" world as it is to theologians, for there never really was "perception," no pure, prelinguistic experience. Such armed neutrality is not, however, aimed a t locking us inside a chain of signifiers but at making us think twice about claiming that our discourse has accomplished what it set out to do. Thi s is rather like the trouble that God, who is clearly on the side of the deconstructor and the disseminator, gave the Shemites who wanted to build a famous tower in Babel Psy.
But all of this, it cannot be repeated too often, takes place with the idea of keeping things open to something new. For deconstruction sees itself as a pact with the to u t autre, with the promise of the different, an alliance with the advent, the event, of the invention of alterity. What an odd result for a philosophy intent on the invention of the other, what an unkind fate to visit upon a philosophy whose every effort is bent upon welcoming the other, like Elijah knocking at the door!
In fact, what is interesting about deconstruction lies in exa c tly the opposite tendency of this misunderstanding, in the special skills it has cultivated in awakening us to the demands made by the other. This misunderstanding of deconstruction, which even supposes that the very idea of "misunderstanding deconstruction" is undermined by deconstruction, is o ften the result of too hastily construing the texts of a difficult, elusive and playful author. But this distortion of Derrida is not without political significance, for it is frequently attached to a reactionary.
In the world of Anglo-American philosophy, it arises from the hegemonic agenda of the analytic" establishment, which has succeeded in making philosophy tedious and culturally irrelevant, and which feels threatened by a style of thinking which, to say the least, analytic philosophers have denounced but simply have not read. That, were it construed as a metaphysical claim, would constitute a sort of linguistic Berkeleyianism, which is incoherent on its face.
Texts are, after all, material objects in whose materiality-graphic spacing, copyrights, the power of publishers, etc. Deconstruction is always deeply concerned with the 'other' of lan guage. It even asks whether our term 'reference' is entirely adequate for designating the 'other' The other, which is beyond language and which summons language, is perhaps not a 'referent' in the normal sense which linguists have attached to this term. God Is Not differance oneself thus from the habitual structure, to challenge or complicate our common assumptions about it, does not amount to saying that there i s nothing beyond language.
I totally refuse the label of nihilism. Deconstruction means to complicate reference, not to deny it; it insists tha t there is n o reference without difference, no reference il n 'y a pas outsid e o f a textual chain hors-texte. I t argues that the range of reference of a term is set by its place within a systemic code, that its reference is both made possible and delimited by the space that it occupies within qausi-systems of difference linguistic, social, political, economic, etc.
There are no things themselves outside these textual and contextual limits, no naked contact with being which somehow shakes loose of the coded system which makes notions like the "things themselves" possible to begin with and which enables speakers to refer to them and indeed to get themselves in heat about their access to them.
But all this is said not in order to lock the speaker up in a linguistic prison, but out of a hypersensitivity to the other of language. This " other" is not reducible to language nor is it something which can shake loose from language as if it fell full blown and wholly constitu ted from the sky. The point of deconstruction is to loosen and unlock structures, to let the shock of alterity set them in motion, to allow them to function more freely and inventively, to produce new forms, and above all to say yes, ou i oui, to something whose coming eye hath not seen nor ear heard.
Is Jacques Derrida Serious? How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deconstruction
Deconstruction gives old texts new readings, old traditions new twists. Deconstruction warns against letting a discursive tradition close over or shut down, silence or exclude. I do not mean to suggest that deconstruction is the doing of a cunning and powerful subjective deconstructive agent, some secret agent or detective Derrida. Rather, in a deconstructive analysis, one lets it be seen that the discourse in question is a whitened sepulcher which thanks God that it is not like the rest of discourse, that it lacks the very cohesiveness and closure to which it lays claim, that it is not what it says it is.
But by letting this out, one points to something there, in these systems, which struggles to twist free of the system. The watchword of d econstruction, one of them at least, is the open-ended call viens! Come, let something new come. Seen thus, deconstruction is not the sworn enemy of faith or religious institutions, but it can cause a lot of well-deserved trouble to a faith or an institution that has frozen over into immobility.
Deconstruction is a way to let faith function more ad-ventfully, with an enhanced sense of advent and event, gladdened by the good news of alterity by which we are always and already summoned. B eyond that, deconstruction is itself a form of faith, a faith in the viens, a hope in what is coming, one which says we are always a little blind and it is necessary to believe.
II fau t croire. The armed neutrality of differance makes it plain that there is no built-in brief against religion, faith, or God in deconstruction, a point about which I think Kevin Hart is especially helpful. The tendency among Derrida's commentators, Hart rightly argues, has been to make d econstruction safe for secularism by stationing a ring of formidable secularist hermeneu tic guards around the text-such as Freud and, above all, Nietzsche.
Theology has hardly cornered the market on totalization. If there is any totalizing going on here, Hart points out, it is among the secularist commentators on Derrida who would forbid the contamination or "infestation"2o of good secular academic goods such as deconstruction with God. As Hart so nicely quips, such academics would be scandalized to see the little letter of diffirance end up being delivered at the door of the Chicago Divinity Schoo1.
The undecidability that befalls our beliefs and practices in virtue of diffirance is not the last word, but the first. Clearly, it is not to the disadvantage of religion and theology to show that faith is an omnivalent, ubiquitous condition. Dreaming the Impossible Dream: Derrida and Levinas on the Impossible If Derrida thinks that the surcharge of surreal, hyperousiological being dreams the dream of pure presence without difirance, does that imply that something that would be plainly and simply "absolutely other" is plainly impossible? Now this is a delicate point about which we must be clear because, as we have seen, Derrida is not against dreams, is not against the impossible, and is not against the tou t autre.
Fa r from it. Everything in deconstruction, we are contending, turns on a passion for the impossible, on setting a place at the table for the tout au tre, which is the impossible. So some distinctions are in order and we have to get straight this talk of the impossible or we risk missing everything deconstruction desires. Levinas charged them with the "violence" of submitting the "other" au trui to anticipatory horizons that confined the other within the same, that alter and compromise the other' s alterity, submitting the other i n advance t o the violence o f a horizon of expectation.
But what Levinas calls the positive infinity of the infinitely other is, according to Derrida, "unthinkable, impossible, unutterable. That may be, Derrida responds at once-in italics, which the English translation suppresses-but if so, that is not something one would be able either to say ar think, as we have just done. This difficulty-saying something it cannot say-is the one in which both Levinas and negative theology find themselves. But Levinas cannot avail himself of the classical recourse of which negative theology avails itself in this situation, which is to renounce language as a foreign medium.
This would not be a problem for "a classical infinitism of the Cartesian type" ED,. Dreaming the Impossible Dream f WD, , but it is so for Levinas, who holds that language is the very point of enc ounter- B onjo ur! Like Derrida, Levinas is committed in advance to the trace, and the attempt to efface the trace is for both a mistake and impossible.
ED, f WD, So we have two parallel but instructively different impossibilities and aporias.
By the same token, Derrida repeatedly warns us in this essay that, all appearances to the contrary, he is not objecting to Levinas's views and that the "legitimacy" of Levinas's provocation of Greek philosophy "does not seem to us any less radical" ED, f WD, 1 Just what this "proper delimitation" amounts to becomes clear in Derrida's defense of Husser! The ".
Husserl's notion of "ap-perception," far from compromising the tout autre, positively preserves the other ego from direct perception, shelters the alterity of the other by putting the other off limits to intuition. Furthermore, in order to save the alterity of the other it is necessary to insist that the other be the same, so that if the other were different, not an ego, it would not be tout autre. According to the paradoxical grammar and logic of an alter ego, which has to do with the alterity of a fellow human being, the otherness of something different, a mere thing or object, would not be nearly so other.
The alter ego comes with a certain optimal alterity, neither too great positively infinite nor too small more of the same ; the tout au tre is tout autre only up to a point; there are limits! The incoming of the other occurs within a field of perception which it resists, which resistance, forcing as it does a merely approximating ap-perception, constitutes its transcendence. Its transcendence is the transcendence of the other person, different from me, let us say, but not different than me, a field of novelty and surprise within a pregiven horizon of perception.
That would constitute what might be called, given certain constraints, an absolute surprise, so long as that means an absolute surprise relative to what we were expecting. In order to be overtaken by something we were not ready for, Elijah, for example, we have to be ready. So let us give up the dream of pure nonviolence, of an alterity that is not somehow or other inscribed within the trace, but precisely in order to keep the dream of the alterity of the tout autre alive.
So there are dreams and there are d reams, and Derrida would never dream of doing away with all dreams, would never dream of doing away with a passion for the impossible. On the contrary, he has found it necessary to deny the dream of pure nonviolence, which is an impossible dream, in order to make room for the dream of the tou t autre, which i s the dream o f the impossible, the dream of the emergence of something different, something that disturbs the sleep of the rule of the same, something shocking, provocative, evocative, tout autre.
But dispelling that dream opens the way to a new dream, to dreaming otherwise, with a passion for the impossible. Now what Levinas is clearly not resigned to is having his views shown to be false on their face, or even incoherent. He is not resigned to a notion of the other which does not protect its aIterity, which exposes the other to being taken and treated as a thing or an animal or an Ullsinll. Levinas has a passion and a dream. He is "dreaming" of something that only barely peeks through the crevices of philosophy, dreaming the impossible dream of "a purely heterological thought," "a pure thought of pure difference, " a thought that negates itself, a trace that effaces itself, in order to let the other be.
That is a dream that would go under the name of a pure "empiricism," or pure experience-of-the-other, which is non-phi-. But again the rejoinder: Levinas is "resigned" to this! There is nothing you can say to which he is not resigned! But that is not quite true. Levinas' s resignation has its limits; he is resigned, not to denying the experience of alterity or rendering it incoherent, but to betraying it by saying it, as in negative theology, with the difference that he cannot opt for silent commerce with the other but has to find a solution to his aporia within language.
What this comes down to for Derrida, I think, is this. The passion for the impossible takes place within the trace. Ironically, Levinas' s own views in this matter, as I will argue elsewhere, surrender too much to philosophy's conceptual appetite. Levinas thinks, in the most amazing Eurocentrism of the same, that Greek logos is, as he says in Difficult Liberty, "the medium of all comprehension and of all understanding in which all.
Dreaming the Impossible Dream truth is reflected" d. In emphasizing this Greek side of the equation, in emphasizing what Levinas is resigned to, Derrida says that Greece is prepared for any surprise, however Jewish, that in Plato's epekeina tes ousias, and in the notion of heteros in Plato's Sophis t, Greek philosophy "has protected itself forever [sic!
That would mean we all end up Greek after all, that you can' t take philosophy absolutely by surprise. We would all come hurtling back to Philo Judae u s translating the God of the prophets into Greek, and everything in Judaism will have been translated into Greek, even when we shock G re ece with the trauma of Jahweh. Levinas seems to me to swing wildly between extremes. After protesting too much on behalf of the tou t au tre, Levinas concedes too much to philosophy, as if Plato's epeke ina tes ousias or the form of heteros in the S ophis t had a ny th ing-s ic!
But about that, more later I promise. Are we Greeks? But for Derrida, history is not the reconciliation of this difference, as in Hegel, or the translation of the Hebrew into Greek, which is the surprise Levinas has in store for us. Shall we call the to u t autre " God"? To be sure, but that is not an answer, it is the stuff of another question. For if we say, as one does in theology, that the tout autre is God, we then must ask, with Augustine, "what do I love when I love my God?
Everything about deconstruction requires that we let the tou t autre tremble in undecidability, in an endless, open-ended, indeterminable, undecidable translatability, or substitutability, or exemplarity, where we are at a loss to say what is an example of what, what is a translation of what. That open-ended, disseminative undecidability is the space of "history," which a good Jew like Levinas should not be so quick -. But once again, I hasten to add, the point of deconstruction is not to let us all hang out to dry, twisting slowly in the winds of indecision while Rome or, more pertinently, Jerusalem burns, but to mark off the place of the trace within which each of us must decide for herself what is what, what is going on, and what is coming down.
The point of undecidability is not apathy and impassivity, like a Hellenistic unmoved mover, but the prick of passion, which is a little more Jewish. What interests Derrida about both Levinas and negative theology is that both are discourses on the limit, on the passage des frontieres, on the transgressiveness of tout autre, le pas au-deZil, on the extremes to which discourse is driven when it is addressed by that which comes as other than anything of which discourse can dream, as impossible, as the impossible, as a dream, as more than a dream.
What does this dream desire? What desires so to dream? What is the tou t autre? Is it Greek? Is it Jewish? Il faut cra ire MdA, 1 MB, I am affirmation at the limits, a limitless affirmation of the impossible, tou t autre. The voice of "negative theology"-one of them, for it has several-is deeply, resoundingly affirmative.
That is why, some twenty years later, Derrida finds himself revisiting, revisited by, negative theology, asked to take it up again, really for the first time, since the very first time, early on, was for the most part a promissory note to take it up again, later on. The first time was too negative, too "brief, elliptical, and dilatory" Psy. That is a merely provisional. For negative theology is nothing negative, no more than deconstruction itself, but rather, just like deconstruction itself, is a deeply affirmative irruption, "from the depths," de profundis, as the Jewish psalmist sings in Latin?
So the next time, in two provocative pieces, in Jerusalem , "How Not to Speak: Denials," and then again in Sauf le nom , Derrida takes up another voice of negative theology, outside its hyperousiological voice. That is why he cannot avoid speaking of negative theology. Then we will talk of Jahweh, of "fah" -weh, of how not to speak of the Most High, how to avoid naming the Unnameable. Not quite. For a lecture held in Jerusalem about the unnameability of God, this address is singularly silent about the great negative theological traditions of Judaism and Islam and about Derrida's own Jewish-Arab provenance.
Derrida has too frequently allowed the question of the tou t autre to be co-pted by Christian Neoplatonism. For the question of what fall-weh spricht has a more deeply Jewish and hence a more personal sense, with roots that go all the w ay back to the streets of EI-Biar, his childhood home, evoking a more Jewish scene, and a certain Jewish Augustine who speaks of "my God" and "my religion. For whenever he turns to the question of the tou t autre, he speaks of "others," of Christian Neoplatonists, and he does so!
Were he to try to speak of himself, that should take place in his mother tongue, which would have to be Hebrew or Arabic, which he never learned, which means that Derrida would be lost for words, mirabile dichl,. Suffice it to say, this story is to come, a venir, and it is to this story that I wish in particular to turn in this study.
The question of Derrida and theology, which is really a question of Derrida's religion, remains oddly out of focus until Derrid a comes back to what he is, a circumcised Arab Jew, which is also-how could it be otherwise? As he says, it is difficult not to speak of oneself, but then again, how is one to do it "without allowing oneself to be invented by the other?
A deeply affirmative desire for something that is always essentially other than the prevailing regime of presence, something tou t autre-too, too other, oui, OLd-is of general interest. A passion for the impossible is a matter of general concern. The Promise. What is taking place avoir lieu in negative theology? Over and beyond whatever hyperousiology negative theology may harbor and protect, over.
Affirmation at the Limits and beyond its understandable desire to draw itself into the safety of a hyperessential circle, what is happening there? What remains if, divested of its hyperessential voice, negative theology is driven naked into the desert? What takes place except the place itself, except taking place itself, the event itself? Those are the formidable questions Derrida poses to himself in order to separate the several voices of negative theology, in 1 , in Jerusalem, in the promised land, in the place of the promise.
Now at last he will fulfill, or at least approach the "threshold" Psy. One must cultivate a taste for the m ise en abfme, or at least to tolerate such gestures, in order to read Derrida, an irksome task for philosophers, who have been carefully trained to cut straightaway, like a good surgeon, to the logocentric guts. But I pray you, be patientP I will speak of a promise, then, but also within the promise.
Thus the lecture becomes a lecture of the promise, springing from, in response to, a promise that is somehow older than him or us, than Derrida or negative theology, that takes place before us all, a promise that prompts speech. Why can't I avoid speaking, unless it is because a promise has committed me even before I b egin the briefest speech? Discourse on the promise is already a promise: in dans the promise. From the moment I open my mouth, I have alre a dy promis e d ; or rather, and sooner, the promise has seized the I which promis es to speak to the other, to say somethin g at the extreme limit to affirm or to ,.
The "I" -yours, mine, Jacques's-is committed, pro-mitted, sent forth in advance, into language, into the trace, always and already. It is older than I am or than we are. In fact, it renders possible every present discourse on presence. Even if I decide to be silent this silence remains a modality of speech. Thus speaking is a mis-speaking ver-sprechen , a Sprache that is unable to deliver the things themselves. Still, this failure or default is an opening, one that opens up the errant space of history, of destinerrance.
A promise is an excess, a necessary but impossible opening to the future, structurally open to the future, the very structure of openness to the future, a word given in advance, to the other, to the future, to what is coming. By thus situating human speech within the Ver-sprechen of the "trace," D errida describes a more barren, desertlike site than Heideggerian Sprac1ze, which is too Sc1nvarzwaldian, too lush and too overgrown with G reco-Germanic saplings sprouting up everywhere, with words unctuous with Being's voice, awash with everything pure and uncontaminated and aboriginary.
Remember what Derrida says is being avoided, the Jew and the Arab. For the pedigree of the "promise" of which he speaks is more Hebraic than Heideggerian, more messianic than Hellenic, and has to do with the pact that has been made with the tou t au tre, the covenant with the im-. Afirmation at the Limits possible, and the promise that the tou t au tre has made to its people. The promise has to do with Derrida' s broken alliance, for he has broken one alliance, that of a determinable biblical fai th, in order to keep fai th with another one, which he is here discussing.
Every time we open our mouth we act upon an aboriginal promise made for us in advance, placed as we are in the space of this promise, under an inescapable, "undeniable necessity" to speak Psy. Even if we said we are going to keep silent, even if we sealed our lips, even then, it would already be too late and we would be enacting the promise. Il fau t: it is necessary to speak, even in keeping silent, and this il fa u t arises from of old. The trace has always and already taken place.
We are always saying "yes" to this promise. Yes is not just one more word, but the beginning, the Urwort behind all words, the " Amen" which gives every word the right to exist, which silently a ccompanies every word. Yes, "faith": how could Heidegger ever be so foolish as to think that faith could be excluded from thinking? This yes opens up and clears the way for the eventiveness of any event, even as it is never present as such.
Negative theology belongs to the promise precisely insofar a s it protests that it cannot say a thing. That is apophaticism's particular twist, its most particular trait trait , its special way of being drawn into the trace-by retreating and withdrawing retrait what it has to say. Over a long and. It is at its most eloquent just when it says it is lost for words.
As long as it keeps praying, it is not lost, does not lose its place and destinal assurance, does not end up adrift and destinerrant. Negative theology takes place because something older and prior has already taken place, has already solicited theology' s word, opened its mouth, loosened its tongue, elicited its response. That is what it calls God, a name that it wants to "sacrifice," to efface, in order to save what it names: A trace has taken place.
Even if the idiomatic quality must necessarily lose itself or allow itself to be contaminated by the repetition that confers on it a code and an intelligibility, even if it occurs ollly to efface itself, if it arises only in effacing itself, the effacement will have taken place, even if its place is only in the ashes. II y a III cendre. The play of traces has always already taken place, even and especially where a discourse tries to deprive itself of meaning and reference, when it tries to empty and immolate itself, to turn itself into ashes, il y a Iii.
Affirmation at the Limits cendre, 30 to make itself a burnt offering, to head out into the barrenness of the desert, to make itself pure enough to pass through the vestibule into the inner sanctum, into the holy place of the godhead. The i diom of apophatic discourse is to be called, solicited, beckoned by a tout autre that awakens a desire for a self-effacing trace. But that a lway s comes too late P sy. This call of the other, having always already preceded the speech to which it has never been present a first time, announces its e lf as a recall.
Such a reference to the other will always h ave taken place. By what is this tortured discourse so inwardly disturbed? What is its provocation, its provenance, its prevenance? To be sure, this is a secret that negative theology cannot quite keep, whose safety it cannot quite ensure, about which it does not know how to avoid speaking. For the secret is structurally constituted by its being divulged as a secre t. As soon as I say "1 have a secret," the secret of the secret has been divulged.
There is no secret until I constitute it as such, until I announce that I am protecting something, that I have something that I will not share with you. What does apophatic theology have that it will not give when it says by un-saying "God"? What does it give us when it gives the name of God? Does it give us something it does not have? That brings us back to the subtitle of the lecture, "denegations," which is misleadingly translated as "denials.
But it does not become, in Hegelian fashion, the negation of a negation and hence a disclosure or manifestation; rather, it becomes a secret. The secret is constituted by saying and thinking it as a secret, so that it is both divulged and negated, and hence divided against itself. A pure secret, like a pure gift, makes no appearance and has no phenomenality. The pure secret would be lost. This has an important political significance. The secret must be kept alive-"the secret of the secret-as such-[must] not remain secret" Psy.
As long as secrets and gifts are well known and acknowledged, there is power: authorities to acknowledge, debts to be pa id. The secret in negative theology-the inwardly possessed intuitive vision, union, knowledge, or experience-clearly converges with its hyperousiology and it is this hyperousiological deep secret that deconstruction deconstructs. But for Derrida the secret is there is no secret, i. There is no escape from the surface of the text, and hence no way to put to rest our interpretative controversies.
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If our hearts are restless until they rest in the secret, then, in this Jewish Augustinianism, they will never rest. Indeed, that is just what is productive about the secret and why it impassions. There is no privileged access to a hyperousios, beyond the name of God, to some deep truth that arrests the play of traces in the text.
There is nothing beneath the surface of the text-scriptura et traditio-or the trace that is left in a text that is tormented and disturbed by the desire to efface itself before the wholly other. That secretless secret is a matter of permanent provocation, and it is necessary to talk about it. How can we avoid it? It drives us mad and fills us with passion. What is the place such a trace takes? The first move-.
For these are said to be its offspring, as the Good itself is said to be, unnameable though it be, their higher cause Psy. If the Good is neither Being nor knowledge, it is as their progenitor and the medium of their commerce a "third thing" triton genos. This is the place called kh6ra. Plato has two different languages for relating the forms and khOra. By being said to participate in both the sensible and the supersensible without quite being either, khOra is given a role interior to philosophy, assigned a proper place inside philo so phy, and engenders a long history of philosophemes, as the matrix and mother of offspring like Aristotle's hyle and Descartes's extel1sio.
In this more negative trope, in this second tropic of negativity, there is there il y a la something that is said, very apophatically, to be neither being nor non-being, neither sensible nor intelligible, that is not analogous to either, and is unable to be hinted at by metaphors.
Kh6ra is neither present nor. Neither theomorphic nor anthropomorphic-but rather atheological and nonhuman-khora is not even a receptacle, which would also be something that is itself inscribed within it. KhOra has no meaning or essence, no identity to fall back upon. In short, the khOra is tou t autre, very. For tha t Heideggerianism sounds too beneficent and theological, like God giving. Unlike God, khOra cannot rise to the level of a command or promise or of a determinate giver; and unlike Ereignis there is nothing proper or properly giving about khOra.
Even if, "perhaps, khOra gives place donner lieu ," it does so "without the least generosity, either divine or human" Foi, Kh6ra is not even 9a or es giving before all subjectivity. Ii y a kh6ra, but what there is il y a there IiI. Ii y a khOra but this il y a gives nothing in giving place or in giving to think, whereby it will be risky to see in it the equivalent of an es gib t, of the es gibt which remains without a doubt implicated in every negative theology, unless it is the es gibt which always summons negative theology in its Christian history.
Affirmation at the Limits How to speak of khi3ra? How not to? Derrida writes: In this context, the singular i ty that interests me is that the imp os sibi l ity of sp eaking of it and givi n g it a proper name, far from reducing it to. The resources of the Greek language were marked b y the unheard trace that promises nothing, that is inscribed in Greek and other languages Psy. Ii y a la, there is there something that is nearly nothing, so void and devoid of content as not even to be a container, something, which is not a thing, that is just there, la, already there, only there, a there, the there, Khi3ra, capitalized and like a proper name; something, which is not a thing, of which we cannot say a thing, so that the discourse about it must turn itself into a barren desert, into ash.
Ii y a Iii cendre. There is an interesting fluctuation or undecidability between the wo tropics of negativity, between the discourse about khi3ra and the kenotic, self-emptying desertification of apophatic theology. What takes place in this discourse about a desert, about a barren and naked place, a pure taking place, an empty place? God or khi3ra? What is the wholly other if we may, quia absurdum es t, ask such a question : God or khi3ra?
What do I love when I love my God, God or khi3ra? How are we to decide? Do we have to choose? What takes place in this barren place, this desert, this no-place in which nothing positive, predicative, or entitative takes place, this withering, radically dis-placing place? Deprived of its ousiological assurances, speaking in its other, less assured voice, apophatic theology records the traces o f a certain taking place of the trace, of a response to the wholly other, which bears testimony, witness, like a martyr, to the.
Ashes and ashes, abyss and abyss, God and KhOra like a proper name. Derrida wants to know about the commerce, the path, the "passage," what passes between que se passe-t-il khOra and the God of negative theology Psy. But surely that is an impassible passage, a path without passage, an aporia. That high road is the link between the most honorable fathers the West has un known, between Plato and Christian patrology. But that is the high road of a high ousiology, the assure d path provided by the hyperousios, the well-rounded circular path of aletheia, whereas Derrida wants to know about the desert, about those disreputable desert fathers with a lean and hungry look.
Saint Jacques, Derrida the Desert Father! An anchorite, an an-khora-ite! The khOra has none of the generosity and goodness of the God whom Dionysius praises, the God to whom he prays; khOra does not give or promise. What keeps Dionysius's discourse safe, what guides it through the aporia of the desert, is prayer, the prayer and praise he steadily directs toward the hyperousios. Dionysius does not get lost in the desert. Of prayer, Saint Jacques has two things to say-he will have a good deal more to say in Circumfessiol1-both perhaps slightly sinful.
Prayer is sent to the other and supplicates the other to give his presence; it is purely performative, a dire not a dit, to God a Dieu not about God. The encomium predicatively determines the prayer, making it Christian prayer, directed to a Trinity and hyperousios which clearly would not be ingredient in the prayers and tears of Jacques Derrida.
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Pseudo-Dionysius is trying to speak well eulegein of God even as he understands that this is a " gift" from God. God is the Cause who provokes or orders speech, who gives the gift of speech, even as God is also what is promised to this speech, the " gift of the gift. An analogous structure is also found in Augustine's Confessions cf. This prayer is thus thoroughly inscribed and textualized, woven together of a prayer, a mention, and an apostrophe. Dionysius is not only writing but praying as he writes, not o nly praying but writing as he prays.
The Mystical Theology is both text and prayer, ratio et oratio. Dionysius's apophaticism has not lost its way or its destination, is not destinerrant, but is more or less safely inscribed in a circle originating from and returning to "God," the saving name, the giver of all good gifts, the grammatical mark of which is prayer. Even when apophatic theology seems to gravitate close to saying khOra, when it speaks of formlessness, it means the hyperbolic giver of forms "beyond" all forms.
That keeps it safe from the abyss of khOra, from getting lost in the desert. It must go into this desert place to find God, that is its invention de tout autre, but it goes forth and comes back guided by prayer; prayer is its desert guide. Even its darkest nights are black with the light beyond light. Even if it seems lost, even if it seems abandoned by God, still it is by God that it is abandoned.
But the question posed by deconstruction is this: to what extent does negative theology succeed in making itself safe from kh6ra, within which it, negative theology-any theology, any discourse-would b e inscribed? For what is emerging donner lieu or taking place avoir lieu in kh 6 ra is the "spacing" or the "interval" within which things find their place Kh6ra,. What else is the desert khOra for Derrida than a nameless name for the desert of differance, of the trace, which is the constant companion of apophaticism?
Does not the "ankhoral religion" d. The third phase of trying not to speak discussed by Derrida is Heidegger's attempt to avoid saying Being by crossing it out as soon as he said it. All that we need point out here is that Heidegger, too, is not lost o r destinerrant, but has the strongest sense of destiny and how it can be fulfilled, and the strongest sense of a giving that gives with a certain generosity. Derrida is content to point out that Heidegger's texts too, like Plato's, differentiate themselves from genuine "theology" as opposed to metaphysical "theiology" because they remove themselves from "the movement of faith" Psy.
Does not Matthew have Jesus tell the disciples that when they pray they should pray in secret, not like hypocrites whose public prayer lets everyone see how holy they are? But can a prayer really escape all publicity? Can it escape writing and inscription, the structural possibility of being written and repeated? Would Derrida himself ever be able to avoid going public with his prayers? Would that be pharisaical? Derrida concludes: Perhaps there would be no prayer, no pure possibility of prayer, without what we glimpse as a menace or as a contamination: writing, the code, repetition.
If there were a purely pure experience of prayer, would one need religion and affirmative or negative theologies? Would one need a supplement of prayer? But if there were no supplement, if quotation did not bend prayer, if prayer did not bend, if it did not submit to writing, would a theiology be possible? Would a theology be possible? A purely pure prayer would not be prayer but union and it would have nothing to supplicate, no promise of presence to fulfill; it would replace prayer with presence, for after the prayer for presence is answered, as St.
Thomas saw, there w ould be nothing left to do but die. Pure life is pure death. A purely pure prayer would be deadly, and w ould not need or even tolerate religion or its scriptures, institutions, theology kataphatic or. Short of death, while we are still living on, there is always already the trace, the play of the trace, within which prayer inscribes its fi gure.
Once inscribed, prayer exposes itself to repetition, to empty rote or enthusiastic reenactment, to ritualistic ceremony or to a daily rhythm of prayerful life. Those are structurally ingredient possibilities within p r ayer, within the play of the trace, without which we would be left without a prayer. The tout autre, on Derrida's telling, is everybody' S business, a matte r of general interest which belongs to a generalized apophatics. Even i f the constancy that the name of God supp l ies goes under other names for us, even then, especially then, we must learn to translate negative theology For the very thing that localizes negative theology and assigns it to its.
Who would trust a discourse whose steel has not been tempered by negative theology, that has not learned a thing or two about the tou t au t re? That work of saving the name of God and of negative theology itself for everybody is the task of Sauf Ie m Nobody is to be left out or excomrmated from this saving name or told it is a secret they are not entitled to share.
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Sauf le nom turns on the paradoxes of universality and community, trying at once to lift the idiom of negative theology up beyond the private interests of a closed circle, but without turning it into a hegemonic universal, an Aufhebung, a universal community and metalanguage. Perhaps we should say in the spirit of a certain circumcision, he wants to find the cut in negative theology that opens it to others, the wound that wil not let it close over. The expanded French text was supplemented by a series of insertions, sometimes whole pages, sometimes a phrase in the middle of a sentence, each one of which adds something, true to its name, about saving the name d.
A four-page insert that accompanies the book-"please I pray you insert" : priere d'inserer is that a command? Parages, Save the Name, Wholly Other preposition with no one in charge prrfpase , word making an exception, word without word, without language. Parages, 1 Sacrifice everything, sa ve or except sau! Save everything about God keep God safe save excep t the name of Go d , lest it become an idol that b lo c ks our way. The thing itself slips away le a ving nothing behind, save the name. Save the name of God for ev e ryb o d y, not just the f ai thful in the determinable faiths d.
Derrida begins with the first and dominant sense of saving, which is also the leading voice of negative theology, where saving is inscribed in the classical economy of salvation, the circle of losing-in-order-to-save. That is the double bind of apophaticism, its effort both to negate the name of God and to ne gate everything except save, sau!
Sauf, 61 I ON, By giving God a name we give the gift. The name "God" is an empty intention, a merely indicative arrow, an arrow that points, like a Buddhist finger pointed toward the moon, not an arrow that wounds, not a weapon. The real wound would be inflicted if the name of God were actually to hit its mark and so to wrench God into manifestation, thus putting a violent end to God's absolute heterogeneity and holy height.
The only way to keep God's alterity safe is to save Him from the cutting tips and incisions of the accusing kategoriai of kataphatic theology, from ensnarement by some name. Sauf le nom de Dieu: safe the name of God is when it names everything save God. Safe God is when we know nothing of God, save the name.
That gives us another way to read the beautiful cross that Jean-Luc Marion38 puts over the name of God, by means of which he would strike it out. This cross keeps God safe, like crossed swords or arrows that defy anyone who would dare trespass. Only a god can save us, but only a god whom negative theology keeps safe. Outside the saving gestures of negative theology there is no salvation. Hence, this failure of knowledge, the knowing which un-knows the un-known God is a sweeping success that keeps God safe.
That is why Angelus Silesius sings of the "The Unknowable God" Der unerkandte Gatt , upon which Derrida comments: -rOlf him there is nothing said that might hold -Save his name Sauf S O il m -Sa ve the name Sauf Ie m which names nothing that holds, not even a Gottheit, nothing whose withdrawal derobemel1 t does not carry away every phase tha t tries to measure itself against him. Yet all this is one great saving ascetic gesture. For God is safe in the bottomless abyss of nothingness, this desert place, leaving but His trace on language, burning and scarring language as He leaves the w orld, which is the event of language named negative theology.
Il y a la cendres.
“This Question of Language” | Ian Bogost
While wanting to become nothing, it is necessary, il faut, that the name of God remain something, an imprint left on the scarred body of language. This "paradoxical hyperbole" is under a "double bind" : it cannot name what it must and most desires to name. But, in the "economy" of negative theology, the double bind-it cannot win-also means it cannot lose; its failure spells success.
The double bind is a double save. That is why Derrida says there are two voices at least! The several voices of negative theology are brought back into mono logical unison, encircling the expenditure of negations in a higher affirmation. In one voice--back to Husserl; is Husserl one of these anonymous voices in the dialogue? But, on the other hand, this hyperbole is meta-metaphysical, hyper-thetic beyond.
In the long run, the identifiable traditions and discourses of Christian apophatic theology are loyal to the thing itself and its Truth. Apophatic theology in the long run is not mad. It saves the name sauf Ie nom. So the double bind of negative theology is a double save. When negative theology says that God is beyond every name we give to Him, that is a way of saying and saving "God such as he is," beyond all idols and images, a way of "respond[ing] to the true name of God, to the name to which God responds and corresponds.
However, for at least two reasons it is not quite this simple. First, a framework is not actually such, as it were, but is taken to be such through certain slippery terms whose changing meaning is overlooked. Deconstructive criticism thus pounces on such terms in order to show that the unity of a framework, or discourse, is constructed by such slippages of meaning. Second, the distinction between what is inside and what is outside a given discourse is actually very difficult to make. Indeed, it is often the case that controversies with the framework as such appear in a domesticated form as controversies within the framework due to the hegemonic power of the discourse in establishing certain obligatory references.
Deconstruction thus often utilizes the interpretive strategy of beginning from the denigrated position in a local controversy to initiate a controversy with the whole discourse as such. Whether in literature, social sciences or philosophy, deconstruction has held established pillars of evaluation up to question. This is, as one would suppose is obvious, not the same as simply negating or denying such established pillars. That Derrida pointed out the limits of the discourse of human rights and asylum, for example, did not hold him back from promoting an even greater hospitality as a feature of European identity.
Not only is this not a contradiction, but the questioning of established pillars of human rights is precisely a condition for expanding the field of what is possible. If it is questionable whether Derrida is a philosopher, and if his work has continually generated controversy, we can begin by asking whether controversy is intrinsic to philosophy.
Not that controversy would ever be sufficient to prove philosophy, of course, but whether philosophy, in its pursuit of a truth universal to humans as such, should simultaneously be understood as creating a division within humans, and thus as necessarily generating controversy. How do we understand the decision, the act, whereby this site comes into being?
How does the site of an established controversy obscure the controversies which brought this very site into being? This use was expanded by Martin Heidegger to refer to the destruction Destruktion of Western metaphysics stemming from Plato. One counts a first as first only after having left its purity and encountered a second.
It is this impurity of the derived terms that provides the condition for the positing of the first as first. Such an account of the essentiality of the impurity of experience to the project of philosophy counts as an original development of the phenomenological critique of experience in Husserl and Heidegger. I think that Derrida did not often enough register this provenance of his own concept of deconstruction.
He focussed rather on its specific difference from this lineage which consisted in the attempt to wrench away from instituted history by showing that its imbedded concepts were less fixed than they have been taken to be. What is the Philosophic Situation of our Time? Since I have to come to the point quickly, I will assert that the philosophic situation of our time is post-Nietzschean, post-Heideggerian, and post-Levinasian. They are indexes of a contemporary awareness that must be registered in philosophy. In the first place, our philosophic situation is post-Nietzschean in the sense that the end of philosophy was announced by Nietzsche, not from outside, but from inside the project of philosophy itself.
Philosophy does not know itself, said Nietzsche, because the very desire to know is a symptom of a decadent culture. The sovereignty of reason assumed by philosophy consists in a prior loss of healthy completeness. Since philosophy can neither un-do nor properly address the decadence by which it comes into existence, it falls under the diagnosis of another thought. But what is this post-philosophical thought? Is it deconstruction? Our situation is post-Heideggerian in the sense that the end of philosophy and metaphysics opens up a phenomenology of everyday existence, that thinking makes no contribution to the corporate technology but rather is imbedded in the activity of individuals and peoples as they face their future.
And post-Levinasian in the sense that the ethical claim on the thinker can be neither put aside nor postponed, that ethics is not a matter of knowledge but of encounter. For Levinas, ethics begins in the face of the other which dissolves the identity of the abjected thinker. The philosophic situation of our time does not abandon reason but abandons its sovereignty in favour of an intense ethico-political engagement which finds the origin of thought in everyday life.
To the extent that deconstruction brings into controversy the assumptions of everyday life, and the edifices of authority which seek to determine everyday life, it inhabits effectively the space of contemporary philosophy. Messianic Time Derrida could never leave a philosophical problem in the condition in which he found it.
No more could he address a political problem without probing its philosophical assumptions. If the rarity of his ever coming to definite conclusions has maddened many readers, his ability to find questions where others found only certainties was itself rare. I quote. Does it not remain open from its origin and by its very structure onto what Greek and then Latin had to translate by pneuma and spiritus, that is, the Hebrew ruah? It also shows, for Derrida, how a humanism that asserts the same lineage is not free from the same temptation.
Such a conclusion could not help but be unsettling to those who would like to separate neatly the Nazi temptation from the highest ideas of European humanism. Perhaps even more unsettling was his pointed observation that those who oppose Nazi ideas often do so with the same biologist notions of infection, taint, and decadence that the Nazis themselves used to attack Jews and others. The entwinement of European humanism with structures of oppression which Derrida deconstructed moved him to articulate the dependence of social critique on a messianic hope. While clearly derived in some way from Jewish messianism, Derrida aimed to describe the experience of futurity as such.
Not only is it true that such a society participates in this incalculable sacrifice, it actually organizes it.