The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas
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The Ethics of Deconstruction, Simon Critchley's first book, was originally published to great acclaim in 1992. The first book to argue for the ethical turn in Derrida's work, it powerfully shows how deconstruction has persuasive ethical consequences that are vital to our thinking through of questions of politics and democracy.
Moving away from using deconstruction to find the contradictions inherent in any text, Critchley concerns himself with the philosophical context the ethical impetus Derrida's ethics to be understood in relation to his engagement with the work of Levinas, and lays out the details of their philosophical confrontation.
New for this edition: A new preface where Critchley reveals the origins, motivations, and reception of The Ethics of Deconstruction, plus three new appendices, which reflect upon and deppend the book's argument.
not really work out as planned. We got most of our belongings stolen on the drive down to the south of France. Nice was an awful, mean, right-wing, racist place. The university was a shithole. The students were dull and conformist. We couldn’t find work and we didn’t even speak French. But I did meet Dominique Janicaud. For reasons that still escape xii Preface to Third Edition me, he was wonderfully kind and patient and gave me tutorials every two weeks on a text of his choosing. He knew
56. 57. 58. 59. 60. The Ethics of Deconstruction nicht in Form einer Frage ausgedrückt werden, und es gibt auch kein Antwort) (Notes on talks with Wittgenstein, transcribed by Friedrich Waismann, in ‘Lecture on Ethics’, Philosophical Review, 74 (1965), p. 12. ‘And thus, while we do not comprehend the practical unconditioned necessity of the moral imperative, we do comprehend its incomprehensibility. This is all that can fairly be asked of a philosophy which presses forward in its
letting down of one’s pitcher in order to let the other drink. The woman who will marry Abraham’s son Isaac must fulfil the duty (mitsva; cf. ND 1562) of hospitality. Abraham’s servant recognizes the woman when she lets down her pitcher and offers drink to him and his camels; her name is Rebecca. Thus it is in her response of responsibility to the stranger, by offering drink, that Rebecca fulfils the duty of hospitality and performs the ethical work. ‘Bois’ is the very event of the ethical work,
military metaphor first used to describe the area between the trenches of opposing armies in the First World War. In the meantime, while we are awaiting (en attendant ), Levinas places Derrida’s thinking entre-les-deux, between the two opposing forces of the break with tradition and its continuity. The immediate outcome of thinking in the ‘no man’s land’ is that language becomes littered with uncertainty and precaution. The scare quotes that surround familiar words act as a shield that betrays a
(le déphasage de l’instatif ) (ibid.), the time of the lapse (lapsus) that will not let itself be synchronized. In a Bergsonian sense, diachrony is the real time of subjectivity: unique, unrepeatable, and mobile. It is 166 The Ethics of Deconstruction the time of la durée as opposed to the simultaneous time of res extensa, Levinas’s Bergsonian claim is that diachrony is the real time of Saying, whereas synchrony is the abstract time of the Said. Furthermore, he privileges diachrony