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  • The Contingency of Being
  • Two Ideas of Philosophy: Kant and Hegel
  • The Desire for Autonomy and the Anxiety of Influence
  • Histories of Writing and Masturbation
  • Deconstruction as Circumvention: ‘Envois’
  • Derrida, the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism
  • The Double Privacy of Deconstruction
  • On the Very Possibility of Biographical Writing
  • Rorty’s Hidden Reductionism
  • The Disposal of Philosophy
  • The Resistance of Theory
  • The Desires We Are, the Languages We Speak
  • Casting a Maybe at the Heart of the Present
  • Politics of Conciliation and Politics of Monstrosity
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

The Domestication of Derrida

Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy Series Editor: James Fieser, University of Tennessee at Martin, USA Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy is a major monograph series from Continuum. The series features first-class scholarly research monographs across the field of Continental philosophy. Each work makes a major contribution to the field of philosophical research. Adorno’s Concept of Life, Alastair Morgan Badiou and Derrida, Antonio Calcagno Badiou, Balibar, Ranciere, Nicholas Hewlett Deconstruction and Democracy, Alex Thomson Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy of History, Jay Lampert Deleuze and the Meaning of Life, Claire Colebrook Deleuze and the Unconscious, Christian Kerslake Derrida and Disinterest, Sean Gaston Encountering Derrida, edited by Simon Morgan-Wortham and Allison Weiner Foucault’s Heidegger, Timothy Rayner Heidegger and the Place of Ethics, Michael Lewis Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction, Michael Lewis Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy, Jason Powell Husserl’s Phenomenology, Kevin Hermberg The Irony of Heidegger, Andrew Haas Levinas and Camus, Tal Sessler Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology, Kirk M. Besmer The Philosophy of Exaggeration, Alexander Garcia Du ¨ ttmann Sartre’s Ethics of Engagement, T. Storm Heter Sartre’s Phenomenology, David Reisman Ricoeur and Lacan, Karl Simms Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari?, Gregg Lambert

The Domestication of Derrida
Rorty, Pragmatism and Deconstruction
Lorenzo Fabbri

Translated by Daniele Manni

English translation edited by Vuslat Demirkoparan and Ari Lee Laskin (University of California, Irvine, USA)

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Typeset by YHT Ltd. electronic or mechanical. Norfolk . recording.com # Lorenzo Fabbri 2008 80 Maiden Lane Suite 704 New York NY 10038 All rights reserved. London Printed and bound in Great Britain by Biddles Ltd. without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means.continuumbooks. including photocopying.Continuum International Publishing Group The Tower Building 11 York Road London SE1 7NX www. or any information storage or retrieval system. ISBN-10: HB: 0-8264-9778-0 ISBN-13: HB: 978-0-8264-9778-9 Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. King’s Lynn.

Contents Acknowledgements Introduction: Taking Rorty Seriously 1. The Languages We Speak Casting a Maybe at the Heart of the Present Politics of Conciliation and Politics of Monstrosity Notes Bibliography Index vii 1 7 7 15 26 37 45 45 53 60 74 87 87 99 115 129 141 147 . The Contingency of Being Two Ideas of Philosophy: Kant and Hegel The Desire for Autonomy and the Anxiety of Influence Histories of Writing and Masturbation Deconstruction as Circumvention: ‘Envois’ 2. Derrida. The Resistance of Theory The Desires We are. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism The Double Privacy of Deconstruction On the Very Possibility of Biographical Writing Rorty’s Hidden Reductionism The Disposal of Philosophy 3.


edited by Michael Sprinker). An earlier and very different version of this project was published in . Ellen Burt. Without Vuslat Demirkoparan. Gol Bazargani and my friend James Chiampi for their impeccable hospitality in the department of French and Italian at the University of California. Many thanks also to Ngu ı wa Thiong’o ˜ g˜ and the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine for the generous financial support to this project. who provided extensive and lively comments to earlier drafts. Donatella Di Cesare had the patience of following and encouraging my work from its very beginning. Irvine. Arianna Lodeserto. I am grateful to Ari Lee Laskin. this book would have never come to light.. Stanford University Press for the permission to quote from Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Pardes: the writing of potentiality’ (in Potentialities. she should be credited for all the good moments of The Domestication of Derrida. Fata Morgana for the permission to quote from Maurice Blanchot’s L’instant de ma mort (# 1994). Daniele Manni and Nicola Zippel. Random House Inc. Franca Hamber. edited by Chantal Mouffe). Routledge for the permission to quote from Jacques Derrida’s ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’ (in Deconstruction and Pragmatism. Cambridge University Press for the permission to quote from Richard Rorty’s Contingency. politics. and problematizations: an interview with Michel Foucault’ (in The Foucault Reader. While I take full responsibility for its weaknesses. Verso for the permission to quote from Jacques Derrida’s ‘Marx & Sons’ and Terry Eagleton’s ‘Marxism without Marxism’ (both in Ghostly Demarcations. for the permission to quote from Michel Foucault’s ‘Polemics. edited by Daniel Heller-Roazen). and Solidarity.Acknowledgements Many people have been close to this book in the different phases of its realization. My warmest gratitude goes to my family for having supported me in all my endeavours. Les Editions de Minuit for the permission to quote from Gilles Deleuze and Fe ´lix Guattari’s Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? (# 1991). edited by Paul Rabinow). I would also like to thank David Carroll. Irony. I am also grateful to the following: Milan Kundera and Faber & Faber Ltd for the permission to quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Italian by Mimesis in 2006 under the title L’addomesticamento di Derrida. Rome–Irvine November 2007 . Pragmatismo/Decostruzione.

In fact. Contingency. I believe it is important to take some time to get attuned to the reasons behind Rorty’s interpretation of Derrida. Rorty’s account of deconstruction as an anti-philosophy. the second and the third testify to my deep disappointment with it. Rorty’s attempt to confine Derrida to prestigious yet strictly academic venues was excessively disengaged and clashed against the Deleuzian idea of concepts as weapons to interfere with and intervene into ‘the real’. the book was a powerful critique of the rigid organization of the programI was attending. The first chapter is marked by my initial trust in Rorty’s pragmatism. as merely a brilliant artistic creation. And yet. With its at once light-hearted and corrosive irony against philosophers’ egotism. and Solidarity – it was 1999 and I was a sophomore in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Rome – I clearly felt that I was reading one of the most influential books in contemporary philosophy: not surprisingly. Contingency. and Solidarity changed the way I looked at philosophy both as a discipline and as a faculty. was too reductive insofar as it completely ignored all the essays in which Derrida clearly resisted the possibility of taking leave from the metaphysical language. I started reading Jacques Derrida at the same time: Rorty’s interpretation of deconstruction was fundamental for orienting me in Derrida’s apparently senseless writing. In the first section of this book. In order to challenge effectively his attempt to align deconstruction with the American liberal and pragmatist traditions. the vast majority of the essays that have been dedicated to the relation between . The Domestication of Derrida also tells the story between Rorty and me (a story of which he was informed only by a couple of quick emails). the book whose dancing and laughing style is still unmatched for me – eventually appeared to be profoundly inadequate.Introduction Taking Rorty Seriously The first time I read Richard Rorty’s Contingency. I will show the strong points of Rorty’s reading. the more I read Derrida. And yet there was something unsettling in Rorty’s attempt to strip post-Hegelian irony of any kind of public dimension: for me. and Solidarity – the book that changed my way of thinking about philosophy. Irony. Irony. Irony. nobody on the stuffy Italian philosophical scene was talking about it. the more I became aware that Rorty’s reading was missing something very important.

that they end up underestimating the force of Rorty’s reading protocol. Philosophy thus self-justifies its existence by affirming that it is the only transcendental science insofar as it is the only science that reflects on the structure of the faculty of knowledge producing judgements that are both (i) synthetic. philosophy urgently felt the need to mark its distinctiveness from the scientific inquirers in order to avoid being extinguished by them. since they do not have any involvement with any kind of empirical or physiological research. as Donald Davidson argues in his ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’. Kant’s attempt to secure philosophy’s survival consisted in identifying its essence with epistemology. which for Rorty started with Hegel. Therefore. because this would coincide with falling victim to another author’s system. the only ‘thing’ that makes a sentence true is another sentence: the Truth is just what a certain historically situated community believes in. I will argue that to contextualize his appropriation of deconstruction. Kant’s idea of philosophy was inspired by the need to define the particularity that could distinguish philosophy from empirical sciences. specifically in the section on ‘Transcendental schematism’. Thinking of the truth not as a timeless being that can be discovered. But. the strong authors belonging to the Hegelian tradition are obsessed by the desire to create something new: by every means they want to avoid reproducing that which already exists. according to Rorty. It is in the space opened up by Hegelian philosophy that Rorty proposes to collocate Derrida: Derrida would help us lose interest in Kantian vocabulary and in its . have been given to the question: what is philosophy? Kant gives the first type of answer in Critique of Pure Reason. philosophy shows the conditions of possibility for the very knowledge of the world. and (ii) a priori. For this second tradition of thought. The second answer to the question about the essence of philosophy arises instead from the conviction that no epistemological discourse can succeed in the transcendental task of unveiling the truth of the mind–world interaction. While ecclesiastic institutions dominated the European intellectual scene. once the battle against religion was won. Moreover. philosophy found its reason for being in the alliance with empirical sciences against ecclesiastic obscurantism. it is first necessary to recognize the two opposite answers that. it is impossible for a discourse to find its justification in the reference to the schematism of the mind.2 The Domestication of Derrida pragmatism and deconstruction are so hasty to ‘defend’ Derrida from Rorty. because their contents are not already logically contained in the definition of the object considered. the very Kantian belief that the world of phenomena would be organized by the schematic activity of the mind is something we cannot make good sense of. but rather as a human artefact that is constituted through the flow of history. Exceeding every specific relation with things.

I question the legitimacy of attributing to Derrida the sort of ‘theoretical ascetism’ – to use a fortunate expression coined by Rodolphe Gasche ´ – which one can see at work in Ernst Tugendhat: is Derrida really a hero in the virtuous and strenuous resistance to the temptation of falling back into the much maligned presuppositions of transcendental philosophy? To answer such a question. Lyotard. and Solidarity. the one that starts after The Post Card. is grounded. etc. privatizing itself in the autobiographical genre. and theoretical ascetism’. I comment on two of Derrida’s texts that Rorty heavily relies on. I will confront the two key features of his privatization of deconstruction: on the one hand. a concern that has deeply dominated French contemporary thought (Sartre. Deleuze. an activity liberated from the presuppositions on which the whole philosophical tradition. and without the hope of selling out the possibilities of thinking. After tracking the context and tone of Rorty’s pragmatism.). from Descartes to Kant and beyond. While Rorty gives the idea that ‘White mythology’ and ‘Envois’ are the places where the . therefore bridging the gap between theory and literature. According to Rorty. the reduction of deconstructive writing to a sort of autobiographical drift. ‘Derrida. the transcendental. he got rid of the craving for generality that still haunted his earlier works. the belief that Derrida dismisses the endeavour to engage philosophy with political struggle. I will argue that Rorty’s reading ends up assigning to the deconstructive operations two kinds of privacy: deconstruction is private because it breaks free from every metaphysical and transcendental demand. on the other hand.. When Derrida realized the inconsistencies of any epistemological project. but it is also private because it deprives itself of any political pretension.Introduction 3 adjournments (i. analytic philosophy) and get interested in experimenting of new ways of thinking. then how does one have to understand his work? In the sixth chapter of Contingency. Irony. He dropped theory and started exploring the mental associations produced by a thought liberated from the necessity of representing the structure of the mind or of the world. Foucault. It is precisely this double privacy that I will challenge in The Domestication of Derrida. Derrida at his best plays with philosophy without yielding to the nostalgia for a time in which words pretended to exhibit the conditions of Being. In the second chapter. Rorty writes – in a passage crucial for understanding the whole pragmatist rearrangement of deconstruction – that Derrida’s greatest merit consists in transforming philosophical reflection into a private matter. he would make the metaphysical quest for truth look trivial and idiosyncratic. In other words: deconstruction is able to reduce philosophy to a production of fantasies which do not claim to have any epistemological or public relevance. But if the ‘true’ Derrida. refuses the projects of digging up the infrastructure of the real.e.

My aim is to demonstrate that Rorty tries to draw a line between university and the ‘real’ world. Discussing in detail Derrida’s essays on the institution called ‘university’ and relating them to Foucault’s work on Enlightenment. quite surprisingly. that is even more conservative and policing than the one Kant had himself proposed. I will argue that what is at stake in these important essays is a contamination of the private with the public. ‘The resistance of theory’. Derrida’s operation dwells in an aporetic dimension that is far from the euphoria that organizes Rorty’s gestures. In the third and conclusive chapter of the book. From a deconstructive point of view. Habermas. of a mode of living that has no relation with reflection and theory. an exile intended to save Derrida from the charges filed against him in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. and not the reduction of theory to literature. pace Rorty. the private and the public. Rorty is trying to persuade us that theory and politics are two realms totally separated from one another. Being actively and positively a ‘political animal’. I will question Rorty’s exile of deconstruction away from the public sphere. Following Derrida. I will argue that. an intermingling of biography with philosophy. in the twelve lectures delivered in Paris in the early 1980s. By stating this.4 The Domestication of Derrida passage from theory to autobiography is clearly announced and fully accomplished. between theory and life. I will argue that philosophy and the Humanities are intrinsically political spaces because in the practice of a constant and radical problematizing lies the potentiality of favouring new possibilities of existence and of being-together: doing ‘theory’ is a matter of disjointing the presence of the present in order to let unexpected futures come. it is impossible to forge such a strict and clear separation between theory and practice. and in so doing. his neo-pragmatism falls victim to the worst contradictions. That is to say. condemned poststructuralism for being politically dangerous because its radical critique of reason undermined the very possibility of a universal and rational grounding democracy. means neither thinking nor caring about what is achieved in the activity of philosophical critique: I connect this belief of Rorty’s to the distinction between the public and the private drawn by Kant in his 1784 ‘An answer to the question: what is enlightenment?’. I will conclude the chapter by arguing that Rorty evades the real depth and range of the problems addressed by Derrida. the postphilosophical and postmodern desire of stepping beyond philosophy is both necessary and impossible: how could it be possible to create a language so purely singular and private that it avoids any general claims? Rethinking the actual possibility of a passage from philosophy to literature. While Derrida confirms the structural necessity for philosophy to be critically engaged in the weakening of . Rorty claims. that one should not worry about the possible effects of deconstruction because post-structuralism does not have any public relevance at all.

. Rorty – in essays such as ‘The priority of democracy to philosophy’ – suggests that everything must be done to enforce the ‘now’ and defend it from any radical modification. but the advantages provoked by this pattern compensate by far for the constraints. The Domestication of Derrida might at first appear as a hostile critique of pragmatism. philosophy should not try to disturb what we are today: it is surely true that the pattern of acculturation characteristic of liberal societies has imposed on its members many different constraints. Working for the security and the sanity of the social body as a perfect epidemiologist would do. But I hope that one will recognize in it the signs of my admired and grateful homage to the late Richard Rorty. The only political task philosophy should thus assume is to reinforce the solidity and the solidarity of the form of life we were trained to be. Rorty believes in a politics whose sole objective is to manage social tensions in order to sustain our actual form of life. For Rorty.Introduction 5 actuality.


The influence of the Kantian identification of philosophy as epistemology is especially clear in Martin Heidegger’s claim that Being is the proper and sole theme of philosophy.2 It was only after the battle against religion was won that philosophy started feeling the exigency of claiming a significant difference from the sciences: once the mission of clearing the path for scientific revolution had been accomplished. Kant had to define the specificity of philosophy to assure its difference and autonomy from natural sciences. determined .3 Whereas positive sciences have a positional character.Chapter 1 The Contingency of Being Two Ideas of Philosophy: Kant and Hegel What is the discipline commonly known as philosophy concerned with? Which fields of research must a scholar investigate in order to be admitted in the circle of philosophy? Richard Rorty claims that for such a question to be answered. As long as ecclesiastical institutions dominated the European intellectual scene. so too will the existence of Philosophy as a faculty.’ but they thought of their own cultural role in terms of what Lecky was to call ‘the warfare between science and theology. Kant was the first consciously to identify the essence of philosophy as ‘theory of knowledge’. Once in fact the faculty that legitimizes the discipline of philosophy is recognized. all the way until modern phenomenology. philosophy risked being left without a purpose. The self-understanding of philosophy as the science able to evaluate the legitimacy of other scientific discourses is not a characteristic limited to modern philosophy.1 According to Rorty. they deal with beings or domains of beings that are given. Looking backward we see Descartes and Hobbes as ‘beginning modern philosophy. that is. thus allowing for the survival of philosophy and securing it as an autonomous discipline. one has to go back to Kant and understand his mode of concerning philosophy. for example.’ They were fighting (albeit discreetly) to make the intellectual world safe for Copernicus and Galileo. this self-understanding continues. philosophy was content with finding its raison d’e ˆtre in the alliance with science against the obscurantism of the Church.

54). For this reason. it never succumbs to spells of drowsiness. without being able to grasp the reason of their manner of thematizing beings. Thereby. The other tekhnai – that is to say. Philosophy assumes the position of choosing which areas of culture enjoy a special relation to reality. philosophy posits nothing. philosophy – a ‘totally different science’ as Heidegger calls it (p. all the argumentative techniques besides philosophy – are naive. Positive sciences do not interrogate the pre-comprehension of the Being of beings they are directed toward. since its aim is not to expand the existing knowledges. but rather investigates the activity of positing itself. Philosophy – says Rorty – comes to be characterized on the basis of its rigorous method and epistemological interest. philosophy alleges its discourse to be distinct from science’s not only in light of the theme it deals with. Kant calls this activity critique rather than doctrine. Philosophy does not relate positively a specific and limited domain of being.4 Facing such a problem meant. by contrast. Philosophy. but also for the absolute rigour that drives its investigation. Rorty argues that the Kantian trial is set in motion by the distinction between intuitions and .8 The Domestication of Derrida and posited. in its relentless advance. instituting a court which would eventually distinguish reason’s fair demands from the groundless ones. for Kant. they would not come up with anything interesting to say because their positive inquiries can only confirm the fundamental mode of inquiry in which they move. In this vein. By simply positing beings. Heidegger states that sciences can only dream about their thematic objects since their slumbering eyes are not open enough to be conscious of their own grounds (p. However. that is – because it confronts the problem of the very possibility of knowledge. philosophy boasts a clear and profound vision. Positive sciences are surely productive. the ‘critique of pure reason’ transforms itself into a critique of culture.5 In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). does not assume anything to be obvious. but they can only produce knowledge on the basis of some unquestioned presupposition. and it does so immune from any involvement with empirical-physiological inquiry. Not tolerating oversights. but to rectify them. Philosophy is the presuppositionless and rigorous science – the only true science. although the positive experience of such a being knows nothing of this understanding’ (p. for they cannot enlighten their own functioning. And even if they did interrogate it. positive sciences end up leaving unseen the act of positing itself. One can only be considered a true philosopher when he awakens from the science-induced nap and alertly reveals the assumptions of scientific positions. 52). 52) – reserves for itself the task of unveiling the hidden presuppositions of the activity of knowing. As Heidegger explains in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology: ‘The positive positing of any being includes within itself an a priori knowledge and an a priori understanding of the Being’s being.

making representation possible: ‘Sensory intuitions . Yet the transcendental project of knowledge foundation. leaving room for a silent observance of the truth. with it. lies a superior level of reality. which enables the world ‘out there’ to appear. . can take place only if the authority of one single presupposition remains unquestioned. repairing. the notion of the knowledge as accuracy of representation would not have suggested itself. When we think ‘philosophically’ we cannot evade the sovereignty exercised upon us by such a reality. by the optical metaphors that connote the interaction between mind and world: The picture which holds traditional philosophy captive is that of the mind as a great mirror. from which we obtain contingent and trivial truths. is to reach the foundation of knowledge. through concepts. The idle chatter fades away. ‘Looking inside us’ we discover that. Rorty. inside. self-reference. Modern philosophy is held in check by the transcendental presupposition and. whose propositions are characterized by two different degrees of truthfulness. the strategy common to Descartes and Kant – getting more accurate representation by inspecting.’6 Two different kinds of knowledge. and concepts as the source of knowledge of necessary truths.8 . in his 1979 ‘Transcendental arguments. maintain a privileged relation with a non-human reality.7 This presupposition has transcendental value for any transcendental argument. some not – and capable of being studied by pure. . describes such a ‘transcendental presupposition’ as the belief that certain languages do not hopelessly depart from factual truth but accurately mirror the very structure which governs the world. To locate the place where every argument meets its end.The Contingency of Being 9 concepts. which claims itself to be presuppositionless. and polishing the mirror. since the assumption of a structural identity in the relation between logos and reality is the only guarantee of the possibility for a statement to represent a given domain of being. an inside though neither empirical nor physical. recent claims that philosophy could consist of ‘conceptual analysis’ or ‘phenomenological analysis’ ‘explication of meanings’ or examination of ‘the logic of the language’ or of ‘the structure of the constituting activity of consciousness’ would not have made sense. nonempirical methods. Without the notion of the mind as a mirror. are identified first of all as the source of knowledge of contingent truths. in their mute transparency. correspond to two genres of beings. so to speak – would not have made sense. but because these propositions. there is a multiplicity simply given to us. and pragmatism’. The truthfulness of this unconditioned yet conditioning stratum of reality is incontestable not because of a stable agreement on the propositions used to describe it. A fracture within the realm of the real is evident: outside. Without this latter notion. Without this strategy in mind. containing various representations – some accurate. the intellect synthesizes the data gathered by sensation in its original receptiveness.


The Domestication of Derrida

Rorty wonders if we can still exploit the image of the mind as mirror: did the mirroring theories succeed in their effort to explain how language reflects reality, or did they fail? If we are unsatisfied with the way in which philosophy has tried thus far to legitimize the transcendental presupposition, we can choose among three options: 1. We can search for a transparent, accurate and definitive way to demonstrate the transcendental presupposition. In this case, we would engage with the Kantian question on the possibility of knowledge. 2. We can search for a transparent, accurate and definitive way to demonstrate the fallaciousness of the transcendental presupposition. In this case we would still be engaged with the Kantian question on the possibility of knowledge. 3. We can decide that it is a waste of time either to attempt to legitimize or to invalidate the transcendental presupposition.9 The first two options share the belief that philosophy’s goal is to enlighten the true structure of knowledge, the relation between factual reality and propositions. The third one instead concludes that it does not pay to keep working within the sophists–Plato–Hume–Kant mechanism, and hopes for a philosophy that will not be a theory of knowledge. This third track leads, according to Rorty, to ironist theory.10 What clearly differentiates irony from traditional philosophical thought is that the former does not acknowledge the vocabulary used to criticize the Kantian approach as closer to the structure of reality than other vocabularies. Thus, irony should not be confused with the relativistic position: Rorty argues that relativism is self-refuting because it claims that all beliefs have the same value, and that such a belief is not as relative as the other beliefs.11 Since any attempt to demonstrate correctly and clearly the fallaciousness of the transcendental presupposition is inconsistent, one is therefore left with two of the three previously mentioned possibilities: either one tries to demonstrate the transcendental presupposition along with the advocates of realism, or one just stops talking about it. But is realism actually possible or is it, in its turn, unsustainable? First, we must understand what we mean by ‘realism’. Rorty specifies three criteria for a theory to be defined as ‘realist’: a. Realism assumes a distinction between scheme and content, such as the one between concepts and intuitions, representations and objects, language and world. b. The internal coherence of the elements on the side of the ‘scheme’ is not sufficient to assure that genuine knowledge has been reached; further legitimation is necessary.

The Contingency of Being


c. The required ‘further legitimation’ can be obtained while seated in an armchair.12 The ironist makes a move which is considerably more anti-Kantian than the one attempted by the relativist, for instead of contesting the possibility of ‘further legitimation’ requested in (c), he contests (a) both to the realist and to the relativist. Rorty points to the essay ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’ as paradigmatic of this anti-realist radicalism.13 In this famous essay of 1974, Donald Davidson argues exactly against the possibility of (a), that is, against the sustainability of the dualism between scheme and content. Such a distinction is essential to all those who claim (b) as true, that is, for those who believe coherence on the side of the scheme is not sufficient to sanction the truthfulness of a theory. For those who believe in (b), even a theory that satisfies the justification requirements for an ideal theory (i.e., to be simple, elegant, coherent, with perfect predictive power) could be false. The additional legitimation (c) required to demonstrate that a justified theory is also true can be obtained wearing slippers and a robe, seated in an armchair next to the fireplace in the parlour. It is evident that, once (a) is demonstrated to be unsustainable, (b) and (c) would also automatically fall. Following Alfred Tarski, Davidson claims that all the theory we need for understanding the concept of truth in a certain language is contained in the assertion, made in that particular language, that ‘ ‘‘the snow is white’’ if the snow is white’. Both realists and relativists are committed to substituting Tarskian trivial principle with the more exotic and exciting idea that there is something which organizes or adequates to worldly experience.14 In Davidson’s opinion, the idea that the scheme (i.e., language) organizes the content (i.e., world) is unsustainable, for only pluralities can be organized: ‘Someone who sets out to organize a closet arranges the things in it. If you are told not to organize the shoes and shirts, but the closet itself, you would be bewildered.’15 Furthermore, nothing is added to the banality of Tarski’s principle if one claims that the scheme adequates to (or fits) experience. If we are unable to imagine an experience not adequated to a scheme, we also cannot conceive the scheme’s adequacy to experience. Inspired by Davidson, Rorty states:
If we have no idea (as, ex hypothesis, in Kant, we do not) of what unsynthesized intuitions are like, we do not know what it is for concepts to synthesize them. If we do not know what an un-pluralized experience is like we do not know what it would be like to organize it. If we do not already know lots of sentences which are true of reality, we shall not gain understanding of this word-world relation by evaluating ‘fit’ or ‘correspondence’.16


The Domestication of Derrida

Rorty and Davidson’s distance from both relativism and realism is underlined by the fact that their aim is not to advocate the possibility of taking apart scheme and content (‘For we have found no intelligible basis on which it can be said that schemes are different’17), nor to unite them (‘It would be equally wrong to announce the glorious news that all mankind – all speakers of language, at least – share a common scheme and ontology’18). With Davidson, Rorty argues ‘against the whole problematic of legitimation created by the scheme-content distinction’.19 He does not claim that the anti-transcendental arguments reveal the intrinsic nature of reality to be either intrinsic – as realism pretends – or extrinsic – as relativism does – but that intrinsic natures do not exist. To say that there are no intrinsic natures, for the ironist,
is to say that the term ‘intrinsic nature’ is one which it would pay us not to use, an expression which has caused more trouble than it has been worth. To say that we should drop the idea of truth as out there waiting to be discovered is not to say that we discovered that, out there, there is no truth. It is to say that our purposes would be served best by ceasing to see truth as a deep matter, as a topic of philosophical interest.20

The ironist, unlike the realist, does not believe that the credibility demonstrated by certain beliefs is granted by their different relation with a presumed reality. Rather, he trusts certain beliefs to have a more remarkable authority since we are not willing to challenge them: they are necessary to our form of life because they are very useful and are largely agreed upon. Rorty considers the realist charge of being of the same species as the relativists absolutely unacceptable. It is not true that everything is relative, insofar as there are alternatives to our cultural perspective so distant from our own way of thinking that we cannot even seriously consider them. In the spirit, if not in the letter of ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’, one might affirm that in giving up the dualism of scheme and content one does not give up the world but only the presupposition that what makes our opinions true is their correspondence to reality rather than to history and language. Rorty thus wishes for his argument to be recognized as a form of ethnocentrism. His intent is not the relativization of truth but its banalization: the snow is indisputably white if the proposition ‘the snow is white’ is true for the particular historical linguistic community in which we find ourselves speaking.21 For Rorty, the ironist is convinced that anything can look good or bad depending on how it is ‘redescribed’. Accordingly, she keeps placing the vocabularies which she does not approve in a negative light so that her proposal to switch vocabularies becomes more seducing and less indecent. She is substantially a parasite who devours the great texts of the philosophical tradition, nibbling and chewing on them

the ironist spends her time proving that those discursive systems are not as grounded as they pretend: it takes just a little effort to make them collapse as if they were card castles. never misses a chance to underscore that philosophy is nothing else but a tired repetition of the worn-out Platonic vocabulary. according to which the division between appearance and reality is fundamental. and Solidarity Rorty uses the feminine pronoun to refer to the ironist. a genre which can be compared to contemporary literary criticism. it is to imagine how humans from the past have behaved and what they believed in. Whereas he. the history of irony is exclusively about men. Hegel’s narrative demonstrates how every . To avoid running that risk. and strange communities (the Teutonic Knights. sabotaging the philosophical plant is a woman’s job. The ironist is not too different from the critic who confronts various poets’ terminologies (which equate to ways of living in the world) to decide in whose image he should recreate himself. it is necessary to ‘get acquainted with strange people (Alcibiades.23 The Phenomenology of Spirit shows how fast one can change vocabulary and ideas. Not interested in being exploited for the construction of grand philosophical discourses inspired by the ‘transcendental presupposition’. he was engaged in writing a history of philosophy. The Hegelian dialectic begins a new genre of philosophical writing. If we know only the people from our own neighbourhood. The ironist is greatly unsatisfied with such a vocabulary and wonders if ‘the process of socialization which turned her into a human being by giving her a language may have given her the wrong language. Irony. It is not interested in trying to bridge the presumed abyss that separates the subject from the objects. the mandarins of the Sung)’.The Contingency of Being 13 until they become disgusting. strange families (the Karamazovs. so as to decide if we would like to behave in a similar manner and believe in similar things. Hegel looked in fact at philosophical texts. for instead of working in the production line enforced by classical philosophy.22 The right language is the one which would allow her to become who she wants. Instead of looking at things. instead of philosophizing. Here. we risk getting trapped in the provincial vocabulary we were raised in. of ducks that turn out to be rabbits and vice versa. and so turned her into the wrong kind of human being’. the Nuer. the metaphysician. wishes to say how things really are. how one can get lost in a world populated by surprising gestaltic twists. Even if the ironist is a ‘she’. the ironist. Rather. she tries to interrupt its functioning. Her actions are either annoying or roguish. while the masculine is reserved for that evil metaphysician. To map out a phenomenology of knowledge is not to scrutinize past vocabularies in search of the one which will reveal who we really are and what the world really is. she. in Contingency. Julien Sorel). The first great ironist in Rorty’s manly Western philosophy is Hegel. In fact. the Casaubons).

thus. According to Rorty. were born some elephants with long prehensile trunks instead of regular noses.25 Let us now go back to Hegel. This fight for survival rewards the vocabulary that is most convenient.14 The Domestication of Derrida vocabulary. This new group of elephants with long prehensile trunks happened to be better adapted to the surrounding environment. The other elephants faced extinction and eventually only the ones with trunks survived. and are therefore temporary and contingent. so it does not make sense to judge which of these languages represents the world more accurately. Did we create a new language? We have forged a new means to pursue our ends. As time went by.24 Hegel cautions against believing that beyond or beneath the various changes of language and vocabulary lies something like a common and unchanging way of being directed toward the world. usually he who develops a new vocabulary does not clearly foresee what he will accomplish with it. As we would never claim that elephants acquired trunks because of a destiny intelligently designed for them. even those that claimed to be absolutely definitive and impossible to overcome. we realized that our words were losing their force of habit. eliminating the competition of other forms of language: . But whereas the craftsman invents a new tool having already in mind the goal he wants to reach. In this way. Rorty’s version of the history of culture might sound more or less like the following: Once upon a time. at a certain moment in the history of the world. something whose necessity is imposed by the inadequacy of the present. at a certain moment in the history of a certain community of animals. the most useful and the most economical. the ironist reminds him that those are only the world-views of a certain moment in history. Rorty thinks we should avoid thinking that the newly adopted vocabulary is bringing us closer to the place where language and world will be reconciled. it does not make sense to speak of a language and a world at all. and we were about to pick up a new language. as Davidson persuasively claimed. he is confident he can produce a convincing account of how new vocabularies are formed. the history told in the Phenomenology about a spirit that gets nearer and nearer to selfconsciousness is the mise-en-sce ` ne of the eventful route that led Romanticism to dominate European culture. It was easier for them to find food and defend themselves from predators. He can only feel the need for something that does not yet exist. Moreover. Rorty feels it is productive to graft Darwin’s evolutionary terminology onto the Hegelian discourse on the exchange of vocabularies. Every time the Kantian philosopher universalizes and eternalizes his theories. is destined to become outdated and. In the same way. a new vocabulary was proposed. The alternative vocabularies do not inhabit the same world. abandoned.

This tradition accepts the dichotomy between res cogitans and res extensa. The Desire for Autonomy and the Anxiety of Influence You’ll soon create the sun and the heavenly bodies. after Descartes. res cogitans and res extensa are infinitely and definitively afar. In The Anxiety of Influence. Without faith in the mediation between the two spheres of nature.The Contingency of Being 15 What the Romantics expressed as the claim that imagination. (Plato. which did not settle for old redescriptions. that perceives the traditional vocabulary as a cage from which to escape towards a new and different destiny. Bloom attempts to define the poet’s psychology. The anxiety of being influenced then shifts from its originally spatial context and assumes a temporal connotation. furniture. is the chief instrument of cultural change. other living creatures.27 Such an expression originally meant to receive from the stars a fluid which determined one’s behaviour and character. to penetrate the peculiar trait that sets apart poets from other human beings. soon create yourself. and all the things we’ve just been talking about. growing larger and larger. but does not believe in the existence of the pineal gland. The story that Hegel tells is of an ever-faster change of social practices and language-games. plants. Rorty relies on the reflection of the Yale critic Harold Bloom. rather than for arguing well. The Republic) Rorty mostly relies on Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence and A Map of Misreading. Bloom thinks that the Cartesian separation between mind and world. between a mathematic machine extended in space and a thinking spirit without extension. is the central human faculty was the realization that a talent for speaking differently. it is impossible to recompose the dramatic dualism which Descartes himself introduced. To sketch the features of this new social group. a subcommunity appeared. Bloom describes the Romantic poet as an individual who dwells within the space of the postCartesian tradition.26 In a given community. soon create the earth. went through a half-dozen spiritual revolutions. It is the story of a community that is not satisfied with talking like everybody else. rather than reason. caused a mutation in the meaning of ‘being influenced’. before becoming adults. it makes no sense to fear the influence of spatial objects on thinking spirits. The threat is from that which is far away in time – the past . In these books. Groups of young people. the German bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century. Yet.

Modern man’s fear is to be belated. but anyone engaged in a poiein. Broadening the scope of Bloom’s inquiry. to have been thrown in that bankruptcy of time in which no original task can be undertaken because debts have imposed themselves as unclearable. to divine or predict’29 – would have. to live in their vocabulary. those that provoke anxiety and not just fear. from divinari. And the threatening character of the ghosts from the past grows with the Muses’ age. The poet is terrorized by the fear that the tradition has been implanted so deeply in him as to deny him any possibility of differing from how he is. Rather. The capacity of foretelling the future – ‘Poets were properly called divine in the sense of diviners. and even less that he is not the one. is terrorized by the demon of belonging to the continuum of history. therefore. in the activity that aims to posit an unexpected event. Having conquered the Muses with their creations. Since writing has acquired the symbolic meaning of coitus – as an act which ‘consists in allowing a fluid to flow out from a tube upon a piece of white paper’28 – the fear is of insemination by the liquids spilled into the muses of Poetry. We do not want to be – to put it with Heidegger’s Being and Time – as ‘they are’. Rorty claims that not only the poet. obliging us to speak with their voice. With so many suitors already taken and deceived. granted them the authority to rule us in the present. not to things (res extensa). Bloom argues that the faces by which the poet feels threatened are those of the great authors of the past. are those who share our mode of Being. transforming his theory of poetry into a theory of poiesis. it is not likely that Calliope would still be available. among so many flirts she ‘whored’ with – as Bloom says30 – why should I be special for her? The presence of other poetical egos wounds the young author’s narcissism since his uncontaminated solitude is disturbed by the discovery that he is not alone. to have come afterwards. getting distracted. in a production. that all which needed to be said has been said. Thus the expression ‘poet’ should refer to all those men (such as . This anxiety does not derive from perceiving some worldly beings as fearsome. the absorption in worldliness provides precisely the means of turning away. to persist in their language. tradition’s strongest poets cast their spell on us. The peculiarity of the anxiety of influence is that the only entities that are truly threatening.16 The Domestication of Derrida – rather than the distant in space. the more plausible is the assumption that such a literary genre has exhausted its task. in fact. The threatening character belongs. from anxiety. but to thinking spirits (res cogitans) since ‘they’ are of our own genre. for time is the means through which spirits influence each other. If one arrives five hundred years after Shakespeare. This is because the more time that passes from the birth of ‘poetry’. We flee away from others of our own kind because we fear we will become just like them.

every ironist (exactly like Bloom’s poets) has been chased by a sort of performance anxiety. is to be. The words (or shapes.The Contingency of Being 17 Nietzsche or Heidegger) who fear being unable to be innovative and creative. If we are terrorized by the angst of being influenced by the spectres of language possessing us. as much as it is impossible ‘to step outside of our skins’.32 But we can still choose whether to leave our skin untouched or to modify it according to our will. One keeps hoping for a task to undertake. indebted. One will not have impressed one’s mark on the language but. rearranged in routine ways. . for a discontinuity to impose on history. The intention of the maker is to create his own language. from the very moment of conception. Rorty attempts to show that. The original sin.33 Rorty. One is saved if an absolute new future is instituted. If one could switch from ‘this is how I was thrown’ to ‘this is how I throw myself’. because that is what would make him special and original. creditor and debtor. believes that it is through poetic creation that such indebtedness can be overcome: the poet is he who owns himself. or models of physical nature) marshaled to one’s command may seem merely stock items. a language which would free him from being the heir of any tradition. following Nietzsche. he who has liberated himself from every mortgage and thus owes nothing to tradition. will have spent one’s life shoving about already coined pieces. As Nietzsche suggests in the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morality.31 Rorty insists that language is the privileged means through which the past enforces its aggression. the bills of the past would be paid off and no jury could pass a verdict of guilty. or theorems. As Bloom would put it: he wants to be his own father. then one needs to forge a language capable of liberating oneself from the eternal return of the same. ironists fear not being able to produce radically new truths and phenomena never before experienced. redemption is the creation of something radically original. whose burden some men feel. meaning that truth is a human product whose fundamental traits change through the flow of history. the feelings of guilt and shame connected with this debt have their mundane origin in the most ancient and original relationship between people: the relation between seller and buyer. rather. The vocabulary inherited from tradition can be conceived as a vast cemetery haunted by ghosts. Since truth depends on time rather than on space. It is impossible to break out of the language in which we are contained. One feels guilt (Schuld) if one cannot settle the debts (Schulden) incurred with others. we have to elaborate strategies to exorcize them. in spite of tradition’s majesty. If one cannot allow oneself to be possessed by such spectres. from Hegel on. Redemption is not a matter of reproducing a past model.

It was Heidegger’s great merit to show. So this autonomy is autonomy in its etymological meaning of autos-nomos: selflegislation. As Pierre Klossowski writes in the forgotten gem Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. but in selfcreation. a little god able to create new possibilities of existence. The desire of the creator is to become a star. to recompose his earthly body into a celestial one so as to guide other mortals with a perennial glimmer from an inaccessible height. will lead us. For instance. the successful creator is the sun who makes new possibilities of existence and new truths appear with his brilliant illuminations. in his breathtaking interpretation of The Will to Power. Nietzsche advocates the idea of a subject that realizes its freedom not in self-knowledge. the artificers are moved by the desire to invent the impossible. The dream of individual autonomy developed within the horizon of affirmative nihilism consists of a person’s desire to make himself with his own hands. the poets want to give birth to unheard-of life forms. original work does not stem from astonishment. then the German idealists. Makers strive to realize the unreal rather than merely unveil what other stars have illuminated. it was the modern scientists. a set of rules that would not come from the outside. While traditional philosophers are busy researching the conditions of the real. They want to be little deities capable of demiurgically producing worlds for the demos. one of Nietzsche’s aims is to replace the indebted subject governed by history with a free and autonomous one. In fact. but from the terror that what is about to be produced will be nothing other than an imitation of something that already exists. The fear is to have inherited infinitely more than what can be handed down. ‘Who do I want to be?’ is the fundamental question for active nihilism. It is a demiurgic subjectivity that is imagined. What is proposed by Nietzsche and recovered by Rorty is an independent man as the producer of his own ‘essence’ – borrowing Foucault’s later jargon – through the skilled work of the care of the self. something that was not even imaginable before their light’s arrival. In the ‘Myth of the cave’ staged by Socrates and Glauco in the seventh book of Plato’s Republic.18 The Domestication of Derrida Thus. Not interested in the effects of other suns. All of them anxiously made the same claim: . Rorty wonders where the privilege granted to the logic of creation. after them. rather than to the logic of discovery. that the transvaluation of all values proposed by Nietzsche is connected with the need for a new right. what are the consequences of our understanding of human nature? Greek philosophers were the first to declare they had discovered what being human really meant. but which the self would impose upon itself. the closest star to Earth is described as that which allows phenomena to appear.34 Similarly. as Plato wanted. He who is tormented by this anxiety of influence has the need to design his own vocabulary. a man who frees himself from his debts to tradition.

Bloom’s anxiety of influence is useful in anticipating some people’s behaviours and understanding their feelings. Heidegger falls back into the transcendental presupposition since he still considers self-knowledge as a matter of discovery rather than invention. of thinking up some new metaphors. Self-consciousness coincides rather with self-invention: The process of coming to know oneself. There are no remains which will be left untouched. the nature of reality. one can state that the Heidegger of Being and Time is mistaken because he kept looking for the transcendental conditions of existence of man as such. 109). is not a situation which only a few men – himself. and Solidarity suggests that the answer to the question ‘Who is Dasein?’ should not be ‘everyone on the planet’. They would exhibit the stamp which had been impressed on all of us. In this perspective. the distinction between old and new. Reaching self-knowledge does not mean grasping a truth hidden in the depths of all men. Some people.35 Abandoning the will to mirror reality equates to giving up the idea of the existence of an immortal human nature. yet we are not all mortals in the same manner. for Rorty. Irony. worn-out and original. is identical with the process of inventing a new language – that is. the answer to the interrogation of its proper essence. no emotional tonality can be so foundational as to last forever. They would thereby inform us what we really are. knowing oneself is equivalent to creating it. instead of politely following the rules of traditional language. Rorty’s Contingency. Dasein is people like Heidegger himself. (p. ‘This’ Heidegger thinks that the guilt of thrownness which our conscience awakes in us. While the metaphysical tradition (in which Heidegger sometimes gets trapped) regards the distinction between transient–contingent opinions and authentic–eternal truths as fundamental. confronting one’s contingency. tracking one’s causes home. is crucial. what we are compelled to be by powers not ourselves. Marcel Proust and William Blake included – experience. . On the other hand. the conditions of the possibility of experience. On the one hand. those who share his poetic interest to invent themselves (p.The Contingency of Being 19 They were going to explain to us the ultimate locus of power. Heidegger errs through presumption since he claims that every human being shares his own emotional tonality. but the fundamental condition of humanity. challenge the continuity of time and try to make new metaphors break out. This is not to say that we should renounce the project of understanding ourselves: in Nietzsche’s perspective. notwithstanding all the things that humanity has become. 27) It is true that we are all mortals.

Artworks and metaphors have their origin in the sentiment that the accepted vocabulary lacks something. means abruptly interrupting ‘normal’ conversation in an effort to revolutionize the way in which things appear. To produce metaphors.37 The act of candidating a truth to join the ranks of our language can be considered a free action only if such truth does not exercise any coercion upon us. the distinction between literal and metaphorical language must be thought of as the distinction between familiar and unfamiliar uses of noises and marks. can properly ‘mean’. since it is only by erring from the decisions imposed by tradition that we can prove our autonomy and our freedom. as such. truth manifests at the cost of obfuscating and screening its splendour. One has to wander away from common sense to create a new one. Recourse to figurative languages is tolerated as a pedagogical means. its ‘idea’ – without darkening it ‘in the stuff of colors and surfaces’. . without passing through the mediation of figurative language. Only those expressions adopted by a community. irrupted on the scene of human dialogue and welcomed with pleasure by many people. Rorty. As it is suggested in Plato’s Republic. become more and more present in the linguistic praxis of a given community.38 If the essence of truth reveals itself as freedom. Truth manifests itself as a kind of deviance. is acceptable only if its meaning can be translated into a literal language. Rorty exhorts us to get rid of the conception that new metaphors and works of art let what already exists appear. in the Platonic and positivist traditions.20 The Domestication of Derrida A metaphor. Consequently. An analogous relation binds together art and philosophy: even if they both dwell close to truth’s light.36 In art. the artist uses images to exhibit the essence of things. Metaphors would be those attempts to err which. the distance that keeps them apart must be understood. valuable insofar as metaphors communicate reality without facing the difficulties of adopting a radically rational language. through use. claims that. again influenced by Davidson. of imitation. stricto sensu. as regulated language games. the philosopher can grasp and bring forth the truth purely. new metaphors do not have meaning. As Wlad Godzich has argued in his ‘Domestication of Derrida’. to accept a proposition pressured by some external authority would undermine the freedom of deciding about the truthfulness of such a proposition. to make art. We have to recognize that art and metaphor are not ways to communicate old ideas in original fashions: they institute absolutely new meanings. Instead. He cannot access what ought to be seen in a thing – literally. the place where such essence is manifested can only be a choice that entails error. Once the inadequacy of vocabulary is recognized. one appeals to metaphors and art to reach what is impossible within the truths available in the familiar language. It is not a matter of mimesis.

things are judged. alteration. The Will to Power as Art suggests. This is how one gets to the difference between Classic and Romantic. 132). ‘Romantic’ is that modality of creation that is derived from the impossibility of being satisfied with what there is: ‘Here what is properly creative is discontent. from the system of values through which. This creation can take place – let me reiterate it – only if one feels the necessity of deviating from the vocabulary of the society in which one is cast. and in which. Paul de Man. Only when a metaphor dies – that is. To succeed. the search for something altogether different. Creation out of discontent takes ‘‘action’’ only in revulsion toward and withdrawal from something else’ (p. the disadvantaged. is the rebellious child who establishes an unexpected time.The Contingency of Being 21 A metaphor cannot be judged as true or false on its first appearance. The artist. active and reactive. Romantic artists can only be disadvantaged and underprivileged. Nietzsche. . claims that art is the very positing of new truths. legislative. There are no language games or rules of use that might confirm or invalidate it. can be – but need not necessarily be – ‘an expression of superabundant strength. in the chapter ‘Rhetoric of tropes’ from his Allegories of . One might call a successful metaphor ‘poetic’. it makes no sense since the metaphorical utterance seeks to institute the law under which it is itself to be judged. Heidegger on the following page continues: Longing after Becoming. . it is desire and hunger . It can be judged true only when it has become worn-out. and therefore destruction too. with Nietzsche. Rorty. for whom every existing superiority constitutes in its very superiority an objection to its right to exist. the underprivileged. 133) For Nietzsche. (p. when its power to create an epoche ´ in the linguistic exchange has vanished. pregnant with the future. form-grounding aspect of art’ (p. . and the artist is the one who reacts to the crisis of traditional values by generating new ones. since it produces an original meaning. one might say. Operative here is the counterwill typical of the superfluous. the habitual tools of a specific vocabulary. But longing after change and Becoming can also spring from the dissatisfaction of those who hate everything that exists simply because it exists and stands. when it becomes wholly familiar – does it assume a precise value which the speakers of a determined language can easily collect and trade. individuates two types of creative activity. and their dust constitutes the common language games. 131). by focusing his attention on the ‘creative. In the beginning. As in Bloom. the longing for creativity derives from the pathological inability to accept the truths existing within common consent: from a syndrome of assimilation without accommodation. a metaphor needs to introduce a new truth in language. Metaphors die.’ Such is Dionysian art. As Heidegger’s Nietzsche.

nachtra ¨ glich. examines the relation between figurative and literal language in Nietzsche. after long and repeated use. It is not an extratemporal reality that philosophy has to unveil. and unavoidable. We are accustomed to believing that Plato writes from Socrates’ dictation. All statements are originally lies because no mode of signifying is ever proper. what is the truth after Nietzsche? A moving army of metaphors. the lie that the metaphor was in the first place’ (p. Truths are illusions whose illusionary nature has been forgotten. and anthropomorphisms. The ironist. inspired by Nietzsche. reconfigures it. it is a linguistic artefact whose traits are often altered. recognizes the movement of signification as the calling of one thing with a name that is necessarily allegorical as it is always other (allos) than the thing itself. of offering new descriptions of reality. To facilitate the creation of an original future.41 This is also the chief reason why Rorty argues that the philosopher should not think of himself as a superscientist. Truth is a lie no longer perceived as such. metaphors that have been used up and have lost their imprint and that now operate as mere metal. canonical. transposed. has to be content to read the texts of tradition. a new kind of philosopher rereads the past of his discipline in a way that would legitimate his claims of superiority. metonymies. Artists and philosophers are involved in the solar activity of creating words and worlds. the present. no longer as coins. Nietzsche does not consider figural language the derived. secondary. De Man states that Nietzsche does not regard tropes as being aesthetic accessories. but as an ally of the artist. in short a summa of human relationships that are being poetically and rhetorically sublimated. rather. In this case. marginal or aberrant form of language. Metaphoricity is the structural and necessary feature of every form of discourse. Yet this belief is not true: it is Socrates who is subjected to . The meaning of the events carved onto the tabula of conscience is redescribed a posteriori. de Man. ornaments used to communicate figuratively a sense derived from literal denomination.40 De Man’s Allegories of Reading indicates that Nietzsche condemns the degradation of metaphor into the literal meaning not because such a degradation amounts to a forgetting of a truth. on the basis of our present necessities and desires. that the oldest shapes the youngest. as Rorty states. the past does not determine the present. As Samuel Wheeler III notes. but instead because ‘it forgets the un-truth.39 So. having renounced the hope that the clear and distinct ideas of things themselves might become available to the mind’s infallible eye. rather. but as the linguistic mode characterizing language as such. and beautified until.22 The Domestication of Derrida Reading. a people considers them as solid. 111). by revisiting the past and renarrating its story.

ironist theorizing was born as clinamen. The past of the ironist is constituted by that literary genre which attests. with a straight face. can one believe there is still a mission to accomplish in the present. an aberration. every revisionism is a ‘perversion’ since its appearing is a protest against the alleged naturality of standard historiography. should have meant) that truth depends on humanity. It must be evaluated on the basis of its capacity to make the future arrive. of a language so sacred that it is immune to irony. As art and metaphor. for only by demonstrating that the past has failed. The stories told about the past are meant to clear the debt that binds one to it. When Heidegger wrote that there is truth only as long and as far as Dasein exists. If they manage to avoid being caught in the compulsion to repeat possibilities already lived by others. and the Muse invoked under the name Memory is being implored to help the poet remember the future. is the moment of application: to remember is to donate a sense that enables the possibility of the present to become otherwise. he devours them to the point of imposing on them a deficiency in which he can find space to say something original.The Contingency of Being 23 Plato’s index. Thus.42 Rorty believes that the truth of a story should not be evaluated on the basis of how much such a narrative reflects a presumed reality existing before the re ´cit. he meant (or for Rorty. The Muse did not give herself to anybody else: chaste and pure. ironists are bound to it by an uncanny familiarity. she waited so long for me to come. The future is behind past’s back: Poetic thought is proleptic. as an unexpected detour from normal history: the young thinker throws himself on the vocabulary of his authoritative precursors. Shaped within the tradition of metaphysics. an index in which Plato shows Socrates looking forward from behind him. Thus. the existence of a vocabulary that no redescription will ever alter. but at the same time they are somehow foreign to it as well. Bloom defines this sort of relation with the past as a form of misreading: every historical redescription is a misreading. Truth . The redescribed tradition looks like a sequence of self-liberating caricatures. since it is the attempt to walk away from our common understanding and open a new horizon towards which moving. ironists feel the need to understand the will to truth (their past) without becoming a victim of its fascination. They know they are products of traditional philosophy. not on something that stands independently from it. Central to the activity of giving an account of a fact. they might escape from the rules of the home and autonomously construct new laws for thinking. The ironists’ new history of philosophy shows that the attempts to invent a final vocabulary are just clever and historically determined ways of substituting worn metaphors with original ones.

which was too metaphysical and not historical enough. Heidegger feels obligated to preserve those Greek–German words that have had a crucial importance in the constitution of who we are today.’ is a private and idiosyncratic matter..43 Once Heidegger became convinced of such a fact. On the one hand. Those who do not share his readings.44 On the other hand. He then started assigning to thinking not the task of revealing general truths. metaphors which would have been otherwise destined to fall unheard in the oblivious chatter of ordinary language. For this reason. . The greatest difference that Rorty locates between ironists who write fiction and those who write theory is the former’s awareness that the events they redescribe in original terms could have been other ones. For this reason. Heidegger’s project was thus twofold. a genre that has influenced and influences less than other literary traditions (i.24 The Domestication of Derrida has a temporal character. By reactivating our ability to listen to the call of such path markers. in Heidegger’s sense of ‘elementary. Rainer Maria Rilke. Heidegger’s canon is only one of the many canons that we can remit to. it is always temporarily situated. The list of books which Heidegger read is no more central for Europe and its destiny than a lot of other lists of a lot of other books. Even the truth of Being cannot be dissociated from human history.45 Philosophy is only one of the many literary genres of modern culture. utopian ambitions. the people of Europe. fatal relevance. since we are primarily the words we speak. will find Heidegger’s litany useless. one we can do without. but of preserving the force of the metaphors fundamental for the history of the West. solidarity. he had to interrupt the transcendental project of Being and Time. he claimed that such contingency was not so contingent after all. in any case.e. on a novelist to overcome metaphysics. of the fragility and riskiness of any human project’. The elementariness of elementary words. Rorty relies. in a word. who are not acquainted with Hegel. Rorty refuses to accept that Heidegger’s list of metaphors is entitled to claim a necessary. he wanted ‘to recapture a sense of contingency. universal. the Bildung of Western humanity. paradoxically. political ideas. we might be able to reach an adequate comprehension of our present. But who are ‘we’? Rorty suggests that the mistake of this Heidegger (the one after the alleged Kehre of the 1930s) results from assuming that the words important for him were important also for the rest of humanity. since some human projects were powerful enough to have become destiny for ‘we’. and the concept of ‘the destiny of Europe’ is. The latter believe that the vocabularies that follow one another are part of a destiny – an inevitable progression that reaches its pinnacle through the vocabulary that they are trying to enforce. Aristotle. the novel).

While Proust. on the contrary.’46 While ironists cannot assert their vocabulary as having a special relation with a pre. but on a temporal alignment with destiny. of humanism). he claims it to be inspired by the spirit of time. just ends (end of history. Proust was able to demolish the authority figures he had met. but a progression with an ending a priori. could accept the fact that someone in the future. There might have been no madeleine. Hegel was the first to lay such an unfortunate claim by organizing the Phenomenology of Spirit around the idea that history is not a series of events which can only be plotted together a posteriori. will betray his legacy and emerge with new metaphorical arrangements. escaping his vision and his authority. Marcel might have gone out to play instead of having remained in his room reading. and a Hegel by a Marx. Nietzsche and Heidegger insisted on incarnating a special vocabulary. not merely contingent. and Christianity to Enlightenment. the ironist theorist claims that history is not a mere casualty: ‘Plato must give way to Saint Paul. On the contrary. of man.and extralinguistic reality. without claiming an authority different from theirs. The Prince of Guermantes might not have married. Each theorist therefore grounds the authenticity of his own discourse not on a presumed spatial contact with nature. they nonetheless suppose their own projects to be connected with something not merely private and idiosyncratic: the journey of the West. the ironist theorists – just like their metaphysical forefathers – hope to represent the end of redescriptions. of thought. to manifest the final metaphoric. . A Kant must be followed by a Hegel.The Contingency of Being 25 Things might have gone differently in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Hegel. precisely because it pretends to have found words impossible to aufheben. That events took a certain course is a product of the unbearable contingency of Being. They wish to embody the absolute fulfilment of history. the ironist non-theorist. The ironist theorist does not want his redescription to be considered just one of the many possible redescriptions. of casual events that might not have happened at all. Irony knows no future.

It is not even a circumscribed and homogeneous set of epistemological topics.49 Such . cannot assume to be the only sector of culture that lets us rigorously grasp the unseen presuppositions of positive sciences. nor a privileged relation with things. it is neither a methodology. What still links Heidegger to the metaphysical family is a certain passion for light. From tender youth we are told by father and teacher that betrayal is the most heinous offense imaginable. Philosophy. In the final pages of ‘Diffe ´rance’. Rorty’s attraction to Derrida – an attraction whose first important signs are two of Rorty’s essays from the late 1970s48 – arises from the firm belief that the Jewish-Franco-Algerian philosopher allows us to recognize the continuity of the philosophical tradition from Plato to Heidegger.26 The Domestication of Derrida Histories of Writing and Masturbation There is more than a touch of this adolescent perversity in Derrida. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. The Unbearable Lightness of Being) It is now the moment to answer the question which opened the first section of the present chapter: what determines the existence of philosophy as a discipline and as a faculty? According to Rorty. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown. tracks the ambiguity which organizes the questions posited by Heidegger and destines him to be placed in Plato’s light. (Terry Eagleton. But what is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking ranks. Derrida. a flame which might illuminate the path for thinking’s nostalgic return to its lost native country: Greek logos.47 In this perspective. Philosophers ‘are connected with their predecessors not by common subjects or methods but in the ‘‘family resemblance’’ way in which latecomers in a sequence of commentators on commentators are connected with older members of the same sequence’. and thus to read philosophy as a kind of family romance. Heidegger’s movement stems from the desire to respark the fire of a purely proper and appropriate language. one can finally understand the reasons behind Rorty’s interest in the work of Jacques Derrida. ‘Marxism without Marxism’) Betrayal. (Milan Kundera. in what has by now become a famous passage. by being just one of the many literary families of modernity. confronting ‘The saying of Anaximander’.

goes hand in hand with his desire to remember the luminous home of thinking. More precisely. which. Heidegger had an ambivalent reaction.The Contingency of Being 27 a homecoming (nostos) is what gives Heidegger’s gestures their sense. Rorty can claim that Heidegger’s envy for the golden age of thinking. Following the Derrida of ‘Diffe ´rance’ and of ‘Ends of man’. as Rorty notes. he needed to start a revolution so thorough as to restore the thinking that was put out with the beginning of Platonic metaphysics. But to where does Heidegger hope to return? What is it that the philosophical tradition has stealthily taken away from him? The more Heidegger’s reflection advanced. Eventually. the more the fundamental problems of metaphysics appeared to him as pseudo-problems: questions to put aside rather than solve.51 . in a clearing of the Black Forest. He gets frozen and trapped in tradition’s maze because of his attempt to be an authentic author. he concluded that the problem went all the way back to Plato. than any other. And it is starting from the light of origin that one thinks of the West. Having reached such a conclusion. the age in which philosophy still dwelled near the gods.50 Thinking will eventually return to its origin. But in order for that to happen. can transport beyond the obscure contingency of man’s languages. Heidegger nostalgically hopes that. thinking finds its sense in the very return to its birthplace. At every turn of discourse. the transparent and unmarked watchword which reveals the secret on the difference between Dasein. Being and beings. the end and the fall. ‘We’ can be saved from the maelstrom that debases man only by returning to orbit around the one magic name. As it is explained in Of Grammatology: Orientation gives direction to the movement by relating it to its origin as to its dawning. death or night. more or less true . their orientation. No petal on a cherry blossom is more or less a petal than any other. . Heidegger hopes to listen to the pure friendly language. Heidegger tries to defeat the centrifugal force that pushes Europe far from its light. then one would expect Heidegger to say that no understanding of Being is more or less an understanding of Being. someone who has something important to say. someone who is part of a bigger plan and not merely a reader of texts. In such a position. Therefore. cadence or check. Heidegger started looking for the authors of the metaphors holding him captive. buried and preserved under idle chatter. If I am right in interpreting Seinsversta ¨ ndnis as ‘final vocabulary’ and Sein as what final vocabularies are about. the language of authentic philosophy will shine again. But this very desire is what consigns him to the long hand whose influence he tried to avoid: Heidegger is a victim of the influence of the past since he tries to flee away from the present. .

something not only different from the usual house of philosophy. Proper to man. which culminated in his effort to restore a ‘natural’ nearness of man with that which an authentic vocabulary unveils.53 we can actually save ourselves from the vortex of philosophical tradition. Rather. like a parasite. proprius)’ (p. ‘Today. And it is primarily through the appreciation of writing that Derrida opposes the ‘photophilia’ governing the philosophical romance.28 The Domestication of Derrida Heidegger was not satisfied with dismantling the authority of philosophy’s heritage by historicizing it. Heidegger’s quest for the forgotten Seinsversta ¨ ndnis. what is so offensive in characterizing philosophy as an act of writing? Philosophers who hold scientists as their models. not every philosophical discourse is equal to another. Derrida endeavours to overcome Heidegger’s problematic completely by revaluing what could not find place within a philosophical scenario organized by the lust for light. for Heidegger. Instead of trying to reactivate the original and authentic philosophical fire as Heidegger did. Heidegger was guided by ‘a kind of reevaluation and revalorization of the essence and dignity of man’. but also more authentic. no glosses.52 Derrida suggests that Heidegger was not content with consuming. In this way. In a word. is the possibility of erecting himself and gathering in the light of Being. those who hope that philosophy might mutate into a rigorous science. the grip of other theories. The authority of metaphysical presence was surely deconstructed. the world will be displayed and explained to the reader.e. custody and final shelter of the fire of Being. when philosophizing is so barbarous. no notes will be necessary. They seek words so discreet that they will allow a reader to hear the voice of their writer with perfect isomorphic correspondence and transparency. so much like a St. solely by rising up on our feet in the open of a luminous clearing. but only in order to affirm the sovereignty of thinking’s possible future. that is to say. no other comments. Writing is thus . attests to his acceptance that: (1) a particular vocabulary is indeed more authentic and authoritative than all the others and substantially different in regard to them (i. As Derrida notes in ‘Ends of man’: ‘The near is the proper. for the vocabulary which might properly be called an ‘understanding of Being’. less obfuscated and forgetful). He hoped that on the ruins produced by his destruction of tradition. which is the only one that can serve as a home. he wanted to ground his own discursive edifice into some kind of authority external to such vocabulary. of its past. a totally other construction could be erected. his property. The fullness of vision will end all need of further clarification. As Derrida concludes. are convinced that putting a theory in writing is an unfortunate necessity.. 133). and (2) proper to man is the possibility of deciding to dwell in such a language. Now. which pulls us deeper and deeper. the proper is the nearest (prope. Vitus’ dance’.

then one can avoid the teleology still characteristic of so many ironist thinkers. The Kantian urge to bring philosophy to an end by solving all its problems. a perspective chosen among dozens. The idea of text. writing always leads to more writing. are the same urge. it is not recognized as a possible conversation partner because. If one can accept that culture and knowledge are nothing else than humanity’s endless dialogue. and still more. we find only texts. is really aimed at putting an end to writing. is the rejection of the faith in the arrival of reinterpretation which would complete and thus terminate the movement of thinking. Instead of books that transparently talk about the world.The Contingency of Being 29 understood as the means of enabling those who are not present to share one’s thoughts: its goal is to communicate a sense. written or oral. in other words. helps us recognize that conversation. The difference from Hegel. this is the sense of Derrida’s catch-line ‘il n’y a pas de hors-texte’ (‘there is nothing outside the text’). one description chosen out of thousands’. . and the Heideggerian urge toward Gelassenheit and Unverborgenheit.55 Under Derrida’s configuration.57 Just as it happens in the Phenomenology. Philosophical writing. For Derrida. more decisively than any other ironist. for Heidegger as for the Kantians. is just supposed to promote the taste for dialogue. however. Above and beyond language. but to more history. having everything fall into place. instead of being a means of reaching ends other than itself. Wherever we turn looking for the thing itself. to represent distant meanings in absence of their legitimate owner. a new referent for writing: Derrida’s texts do not talk about the world. ‘between ourselves and the thing judged there always intervenes mind. and more.54 This is done in order to highlight that discourses are always and only referring to other vocabularies. and more. to other declinations of the world. Derrida introduces. but strips it of its teleology. for a meaning that might have happened outside language. there are only other languages. the world no longer suggests anything to us. we simply cannot refer to a reality that is not already linguistic. One can affirm that Derrida conceives philosophy as nonsensical since it is not directed toward a definitive meaning. has no other end than conversation itself.56 The metaphorics of voice suggest that words reveal what ought to be seen in things – their idea. The conversation among philosophers. Derrida maintains the ironic idea of philosophy as a horizontal succession of texts (and not as a vertical relation between words and things). they write about other texts. the idea of writing which generates other writing. as Rorty puts it. and still more – just as history does not lead to Absolute Knowledge or the Final Struggle. language. truth is conceived by Derrida as the reinterpretation of prior interpretations. We never meet the pure world.

59 The disappointment that one feels when reading Derrida’s essays is due to the fact that his writings do not end with a vision that offers the things in themselves. Who knows where these epigraphs will lead me. and permutations are always taken from a history of meaning [sens] – that is. There is no memory or promise of the broad daylight’s kiss. and each one of these notes contains many others. which coincides – as we saw in de Man – with the calling of things with inappropriate names. substitutions. There is no original and fundamental centre around which the various senses of Derrida’s writing can be organized. One of the three epigraphs opening Speech and Phenomena is a passage from Ideas I. can also indifferently be called the origin or end. transformations. repetitions. or even with questions instead of answers. Derrida is a writer who disappoints his readers. And on the basis of this certitude anxiety can be mastered. a history – whose origin may always be reawakened or whose end may always be anticipated in the form of presence. Contrary to what our desire cannot not want to believe. a play constituted on the basis of a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude. in a word. Intentionally so. which itself is beyond the reach of play. He is a frustrating author since he infinitely defers the moment of truth’s appearance. Now I find myself wandering in the paintings of that gallery.61 It . because it can be either inside or outside. of being as it were at stake in the game from the outset. In fact. recalling the necessity of further readings.60 Derrida’s philosophy is a kind of writing. which is worth looking at since it gives a good idea of Derrida’s complicated style. many of his texts end with references to other texts. On some of these pictures are epigraphs.30 The Domestication of Derrida Rorty’s remarks on deconstruction are very effective in reproducing the texture woven by Derrida. Memory teletransports me into the corridors of that gallery. rather. the thing itself always withdraws. I read them. And again on the basis of what we call the center (and which. In Derrida. we are always in the gallery. nor with a final redescription. Before me stands a portrait representing a gallery of paintings. for anxiety is invariably the result of a certain mode of being implicated in the game. For Derrida. of being caught by the game. they inconclusively and endlessly relaunch the movement of conceptualization. for it is not ‘the primary prescription or the prophetic annunciation of an imminent and as yet unheard-of nomination’. The concept of centered structure is in fact the concept of a play based on a fundamental ground. one deals with a plot similar to that of a polyphonic fiction: a structure that has neither head nor tail since its central and organizing fire has been extinguished. arche ´ or telos).58 Derrida’s texts are footnotes for other footnotes. Here is the scene that Husserl stages: somebody happens to say something which reminds me of my last visit to the Dresden painting gallery.

Debray’s Hygie ` ne et physiologie du mariage. may lose his nerve. He does this by withdrawing into a dream world of ideas. Tissot’s L’onanisme. that is. . Attuned with such a (pseudo)science. making them unable to see how things really are. Derrida deals specifically with JeanJacques Rousseau. even if it were the name of Being. The one who plays with writing and the one who plays with himself run the same risk. a lost native country of thought. in the sense in which Nietzsche puts affirmation into play. 151) The ‘West’ has been dominated by the belief that masturbatory praxis is not only an improper pastime. after overstrenuous inquiry into our relation to the world. and the world simultaneously. it makes young men go blind. but a broader and still circumscribed account of the grounding of masturbation as a self-destructive practice would require much further investigation. Western popular tradition affirms that the practice of masturbation causes the obfuscation of sight. as well as Proudhon.’ its painting or its representation. so onanism announces the ruin of vitality in terms of imaginary seductions. This danger is that of the image. What do these two manual activities have in common? What kind of threatening perversion do they share? The supplement that ‘cheats’ maternal ‘nature’ operates as writing. Writing. Mandeville and Littre ´. of representations – even. On the contrary.The Contingency of Being 31 brackets the dream of one correct way of interpreting things and texts. in a certain laughter and a certain step of the dance. all describe at length the fatal results of the solitary act of pleasure. we must affirm this. God help us. (p.63 Derrida’s Of Grammatology associates this resistance toward writing with the traditional condemnation of self-eroticism. (p. Just as writing opens the crisis of the living speech in terms of its ‘image. 27) The assumption of diffe ´ rance – ‘the difference between a text and what it means’62 – not only extends the domain and play of interpretation ad infinitum. but also a habit that predisposes one to a great number of illnesses. The drift acted out by Derrida’s writing is exactly the risk that the philosophical tradition has always wanted to avoid ‘the philosopher. outside of the myth of a purely maternal or paternal language. Larousse’s Grand Dictionnaire Universel. provokes the same effects. but also transforms the trajectories of philosophical discursivity into an adventurous wandering. and as writing it is dangerous to life. As ‘Diffe ´rance’ announces: There will be no unique name. according to some philosophical experts. of texts’. his reason. And we must think this without nostalgia.64 To give some other examples from ‘Rousseau’s epoch’ (the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries).

. It simply requires following the standard path illuminated by tradition. As Derrida writes in ‘Plato’s pharmacy’. writing plays within the simulacrum. risks compromising the world’s stability – disjointing it. Estranged from the truth of reason. is considered threatening to life in a way the living (spoken) word is not. . But. Normality consists in the thrill of fitting ‘just the right piece . they are temptations that can drive one insane. for ‘getting it right’. being addicted to the world of ghosts they produce and thus losing interest in reality. they both invoke an absence which is contrary to the natural health of reason. as destruction and disease of presence. into just the right slot’. One gets lost in a world of phantoms and phenomena. To touch one’s self and to carve a surface are in contrast. abducting us from the straight and narrow path. He who abuses its pleasures will surrender . it has to place at the disposal of one’s voice an apparatus which would refer to reality as an unequivocal index. Having spent too much time playing with literature. which is at the ground of writing and masturbation.’68 It should produce copies and representatives of voice. writing and masturbation both risk drifting away from the thing itself. through a sort of epoche ´. argues Rorty. Suspending the immediate presence of faces and voices. we are left to play with the simulacra and the simulations of things produced by imagination. Writing and masturbation loosen up our contact with reality. Writing’s role is to serve as a faithful mouthpiece: a docile and obedient servant. in masturbating. To have something to do with them means risking intoxication. in a universe in which the convocation of things themselves is differed infinitely since the very possibility of ‘being in touch with reality’ is dislocated by the imaginative faculty.32 The Domestication of Derrida The threat is that the blinding pleasures of writing and masturbation would end up seducing us.65 Writing. According to the metaphysical tradition. They both venture into a realm of illusions that break free from the reality of things in flesh and bone and inaugurate the theatre of fiction. the fullness of meaning should eventually regain possession of the impropriety of writing. and for this reason. Derrida’s thought ended up losing its sight on things. away from the track beaten by normal intellect.66 Tradition looks at masturbation and writing as foreplay which one has to practice before coming to the point: to the core of things. Since diffe ´rance forestalls the enjoyment of the things in themselves. with the authenticity of embracing bodies. whose possible virulence must be neutralized with a final presentification: ‘writing was supposed to paint a living word. for showing the right slots of things.67 Anybody can confine oneself to being normal. Derrida does not really feel like partaking in the normal game of the past – the one that teleologically conceives writing as the act which substitutes talking in the hope of restoring its lost presence. in writing.

‘It is because Derrida thinks that the ability to see writing as writing is what we need to break the grip of the notion of representation. Derrida. according to Rorty. Just like the pharmakon to be found in the back of Plato’s drugstore. Western scientific and religious discourses also stated that masturbating made shameful hair grow on one’s hands.’71 Rorty affirms that. to a cave where the benefits of sunlight cannot arrive. one should turn to it exclusively for therapeutic use.)69 Rorty compares Derrida to the secularists who. (Reading Nietzsche and Heidegger was thought to have even worse effects – doing so might cause hair to sprout in unwonted places.70 By highlighting the link between masturbation and writing it is in fact easier to describe the philosophical morals of the West as a historical contingency that can be overcome by also learning to perceive writing in its heavy materiality and by looking at words as words and not as means to mirror immutable essences. In the same manner. in Derrida’s view. an epiphany. representations and the real’. a clap of thunder. By contrast. It was widely believed that reading Hegel rotted the brain. Rorty.The Contingency of Being 33 himself to a tunnel. It is a genre which would like to be a gesture. instead. bizarre etymologies. abuses the stupefacient drugs called writing and plays with it in a masturbation without end. wants to persuade us that the condemnation of writing and masturbation is produced by human history. not by some extrahuman necessity. Kantian philosophy is a kind of writing which would like not to be a kind of writing. This is why in Derrida’s texts philosophy dances to the rhythm of obscene allusions and puns. they suggested how the world might look if religion got out of the way. writes: students of analytic philosophy were encouraged to keep their reading in literature well clear of their philosophical work and to avoid reading German philosophy between Kant and Frege. enigmatic allusions. referring to the philosophical prejudices within which he was raised. That is . writing should be used in moderation and kept out of the reach of children in order not to corrupt them. instead of affirming something about God – his existence or inexistence – consider the divine as a part of human history. Deconstruction. phonic and graphic oddities. Rather than discussing the truth of God. Derrida tries to make us imagine what philosophical culture might look like without the Kantian interest in the foundations of knowledge: a culture which would no longer condemn writing and would stop worrying about the relation ‘between subject and object. turning one into a snarling fascist beast. We are warned that to masturbate and to write opaquely are activities to be avoided because they subvert natural law: these are practices against nature and life.

since it does not have a beginning neither can it have one end. language. then the idea of a pure language. One moves from text to text. As Bloom convincingly explains in A Map of Misreading: despite all its effort. is exactly what makes possible. Heidegger and the other ironist authors. looked for words pure enough to reconcile things and thinking.73 insofar as it cannot avoid being haunted by words that are not its own. it is much easier to understand the reason behind Glas. Husserl knew this well. the Talmudic pages in which Derrida monstrously mixes texts.72 Instead of looking for a proper. words and the world meet..34 The Domestication of Derrida where God and man. and thus at the same time forbids. disseminates hidden quotations and makes dirty allusions. autarchy. Having clarified that contamination is to be recognized as the condition of any subjectivity (consciousness) and any objectivity (truth). One cannot see it coming. we are also able to understand the necessity of Derrida’s style. But it is also so impure that it does not expect to be the destinal redescription. The circulation of signs has been going on forever. . we want speechlessly to say. ‘Writing is helpless. Kantian philosophers. They would like the words they use to be so simple as to be presuppositionless. from metaphor to metaphor. cannot live in itself. One is no longer forced to purify one’s vocabulary since a virginal vocabulary not penetrated by others’ vocabularies. but just to show. let no further words come between the happy pair.e. i. any poem will always be a dyad – at least – and never a monad because what terrorizes most of the fluids of the past is that one can see the flooding only after it has already come. thus any preventive strike against the terrorizing menace is impossible. in an endless play of substitutions that can never culminate in the presentation of the thing itself. transparent. Derrida’s writing is so perverse that it differs infinitely from the embrace of the happy couple constituted by mind and world. of a homeland for the authentic thinking. searched for a metaphorics capable of terminating the movement of interpretation. The thing that happened to the Bloomian strong poet also happens to the protagonist of Cartesian Meditations: the attempt to delimitate a pure inside which owes nothing to the alter ego. is a joke and a despair’. nor in the manifestation of a destiny. fades. thought and its object. does not exist. If propositions depend only on propositions instead of on worlds or destiny. grafts Genet in Hegel’s column. fearing the threats of writing. culminates in the ego’s realization that the contaminating spectre of the other. Kantian philosopher would like not to write. anxious about the fluids of metaphysical tradition. Derrida dramatically complicates his style. phenomenologically pure language. Therefore. If we are able to recognize the desire for authenticity and purity as symptomatic relapses into the metaphysical habitus that hopes to speak without suffering from any contingent and influencing germs.

Rather than falling back into Heidegger’s Greek–German fantasy and thus producing nostalgic remakes of it. Simultaneously. in the insurmountability of the defence that immunizes it from the attacks of foreigners and parasites. Marx and many more. showing the influence which binds him to the past is the way in which Derrida gains some autonomy from it. There is no obstinately innocent logos that sits in judgement over philosophers’ conflicts in order to resolve their quarrels. in contrast to the meetings arranged by Plato. Husserl. Heidegger. The dialogical skirmishes frequently result in an endless analysis.75 To paint philosophy pink means to highlight the relationship between philosophy and sexuality. Derrida’s writing demonstrates in fact a porosity and penetrability that is the reversal of classical virtues. Instead of yielding to the seductive cloaking device which Nietzsche called ‘active forgetfulness’. writing against writing. On such an occasion. Derrida convenes in the present all the spectres that. he sets up a crowded symposium whose participants are the authors of the past that have influenced him the most. is traditionally a matter of not having any relation with the outside. simulacra against simulacra. Freud. or as a ‘pornosophy’. Hegel. In his texts. The overcoming of metaphysics here does not take place in perfecting or correcting it. Derrida is not ashamed of his own debts. According to Rorty. The final judgement never appears on the stage to solve. putting in the spotlight the fact that philosophy has always thought of itself in the male gender: the will to know and to possess. exposing how promiscuous it has always been. Perfection for a living being. are speaking with him. the desire to . Derrida unveils its hidden wound. the debt that makes it depend on other productions. God – who does not masturbate since ‘he’ does not have hands – also does not have allergies. This is what Geoffrey Hartman refers to when describing deconstruction as a pinking philosophy. he evokes the spirits of philosophy and discards their dictates: in order to be really freed from the influence of the past. Derrida’s irony derives from letting discourses play against discourses. but through the resolution not to satisfy the desire for autarchy and purity that are the motors of philosophical enterprise. and for a written piece. end up talking to each other but. Shakespeare. the project of penetrating reality. A living being is perfect if it is exclusively and purely an inside. rather than opposing a transparent and rigorous truth against the opinions of the past.74 Health and virtue coincide. one has to recover from the anxiety of influence itself. there is no Socrates there to knock out the challengers. By beating the text of metaphysics. speaking in his vocabulary. as a deus ex machina.The Contingency of Being 35 Deconstruction assumes the form of pastiche since – just like other cultural products of late capitalism such as De Palma’s movies or Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – it exhibits its own impropriety and nonindependence. disputes and oppositions.

the origin of the word. femininity is thought of on the basis of the category of lack: lack of phallus. or for those quasi-girls and quasi-boys who are homosexuals. or a world. of virility.36 The Domestication of Derrida inseminate. The latter is the one who wants to be the absolute origin of his vocabulary. The one who longs to start from scratch. seems to be provoked by the tremendously serious attempt not to take too seriously the canonic . of penetrative sharpness. insofar as philosophical discourse is an effect of desire. Derrida. sign. Derrida compares the bricoleur’s practice to that of the engineer. recognizes as proper and positive those so-called feminine characteristics which have always been able to produce. But do engineers really exist? And what about a true male? Has he ever existed? If one calls bricolage the necessity of borrowing one’s concepts from the text of a heritage which is more or less coherent or ruined. Is not Derrida suggesting that metaphysics. and play in the discourse of human sciences’. The one who does not tolerate being deceived by language. for the first time. that the engineer is of the same gender as the bricoleur. the fear of being penetrated and possessed and so forth. After reading Derrida. are desires: to think the dream of metaphysics for him is to think of metaphysics as a dream. which Rorty praises so much. that phonocentrism a consequence of phallocracy. Derrida denounces the demands of engineering for its dreamy provenance. Science. history. In ‘Structure. The one who has total control over his erections. individuates two different strategies of writing: writing as bricolage is the discourse that nomadically uses the tools found along its way. with no fear to modify them in order to adapt them to the goals for which they had not been intended. Anxiety of influence. at best.76 Derrida’s philosophy. mathematics. as Cinderella knew well. and martial music are destined for boys. and ironist theory as well. literature.77 If one admits that every philosophical discourse is bound to a certain bricolage. literature and flowers are things for girls. of toughness. body-building. it must be said that every discourse is bricoleur. reading Le ´vi-Strauss. and dreams. the word made flesh. a dream whose overcoming is a matter of sex. then one will stop believing in the existence of manly engineers. of a transcendental science or an ironic redescription that purely and radically breaks from the historical contingencies and presuppositions typical of other sectors of culture. Penis envy. is an effect of the sexism of the West? Male sexuality is the norm and the foundation (it is enough to think of the biblical creation of Adam and Eve). Deconstruction’s lack of seriousness. without hesitating to try many. one starts believing that the primacy of the voice is just an effect of the sovereignty of the phallus.

The Contingency of Being


positions with which the tradition always and continuously tempts us, but to drive ourselves, finally, toward other passions.

Deconstruction as Circumvention: ‘Envois’
Was he cultivated enough to know this was the famous year of Jena, when Napoleon, on his small gray horse, passed under the windows of Hegel, who recognized in him the ‘spirit of the world,’ as he wrote to a friend? Lie and truth: for as Hegel wrote to another friend, the French pillaged and ransacked his home. But Hegel knew how to distinguish the empirical and the essential. (Maurice Blanchot, The Instant of My Death)

The history of philosophy told by Rorty is characterized by something similar to a march toward the privatization of the means of production of the world, and toward the acceptance of the absolute contingency of the sense of Being. Aristotle and Plato spoke, each in his own terms, of the essence of things: things are responsible for our understanding of them. With Kant’s Copernican revolution, philosophical gaze moved to men’s universal and necessary way of knowing things. It is starting from Kant that we can properly speak of a world posited by human beings, a world common to the whole of humanity and to any other form of intelligent life. Hegel happened to be the one who historicized and thus relativized Kant’s categories; every epoch and every culture has its peculiar mode of being opened to reality. And yet, like Heidegger, Hegel too suggested that an absolute culture would come and complete the unfolding of history. The last step of the movement that Rorty forces on philosophy occurs with Derrida: the image of the world I have depends upon my desires. Upon the privacy and uniqueness of the events I happened to face. Upon my life. Upon my loves. Philosophy, born as thinking of things, is overturned into thinking of the factual and empirical ‘I’ who is directed towards things. Theory blends into autobiography since the responsibility of a philosophical discourse is always ascribed to someone; never to Being, nature or destiny. The paradigmatic case of such privatization of philosophy is Derrida’s ‘Envois’, a crucial yet relatively understudied text, often relegated to the status of intellectualistic extravagance. In ‘Envois’, Derrida collects love letters sent by someone between 3 June 1977 and 13 August 1979. Two years of love letters that an ‘I’, always far from home on business, sends to a ‘thou’ from Oxford, Yale, London, as well as from other academic venues. Who is the addressee of this love – a woman,


The Domestication of Derrida

many women, many men, the sophia, Heidegger – is up to the reader to decide; it is up to you for example.78 Presumably, the ‘I’ who signs the letters is Derrida himself: in the movements to which the postcards allude, it is not difficult to recognize the travels that the philosopher had made delivering lectures throughout the world. The assiduous correspondence emphasizes the privacy of the work being done in ‘Envois’.
Nothing is more private than a love letter – there is nothing to which general ideas are less relevant or more inappropriate. Everything, in a love affair or love letter, depends upon shared private associations, as when the ‘traveling salesman’ who writes the letters in ‘Envois’ recalls ‘the day when we bought that bed (the complication of credit and of the perforated tag in the department store, and then one of those horrible scenes between us)’.79

The letters which constitute this collection talk about and are the effects of Derrida’s desires. They witness a private and personal Streben that does not necessarily apply to the whole of humanity. While Heidegger ended up trying to ground philosophy on something bigger than himself, Derrida quite honestly shows that theory is just the product of the contingencies of one’s own private life. The key event in ‘Envois’ is the discovery of a book on divination by the medieval chronicler Matthew Paris. What, however, strikes the author of the postcards – and let’s just call such a textual persona ‘Derrida’ – is not the topic of the book, but rather, Paris’s illustration displayed on its cover. The portrait shows two characters: one sits at a scribe’s desk writing, while the other, holding up his index, urges the former from behind. Above the head of the one sitting is written ‘Socrates’, and above the other, ‘plato’, with a small ‘p’. ‘Derrida’ goes crazy over the picture that reverses the canonic story between Plato and Socrates, and thus decides to acquire an entire stock of this image; from this love at first sight, he will write only on such reproductions, using them as postal paper. The relationship with his faraway love is mediated through the flipside of the Socrates–plato postcard. ‘Derrida’ fantasizes with his ‘thou’ about the ‘S-p’ picture. In fact, alongside the case of mistaken identities due presumably to the inattentive copyist, something else catches his attention. ‘For no clear reason, there is a big something (looking a bit like a skateboard) sticking out from between Socrates’ rear end and the chair he is sitting in.’80 What is that strange tool that almost stabs Socrates in the back? ‘Derrida’ seizes the opportunity to interpret the situation in the most obscene way. It is an overbearing erected penis that Plato is handling behind the impotent Socrates.

The Contingency of Being


[A]n interminable, disproportionate erection traversing Paris’s head like a single idea and then the copyist’s chair, before slowly sliding, still warm, under Socrates’ right leg.81

Once again the discourse on metaphysics is transformed into sexual innuendo. In ‘Envois’, thanks to the penis/skateboard cue, Derrida’s attention focuses on the theme of procreation and lineage. Somebody – the addressee of the letters, but also the inverted couple p. and S. – is trying to force ‘Derrida’ into having a child. In fact, as he writes, ‘what has betrayed us, is that you wanted generality: which is what I call a child’ (p. 23).
Imagine the day, as I have already, that we will be able to send sperm by post card, without going through a check drawn on some sperm bank, and that it remains living enough for the artificial insemination to yield fecundation. (p. 24)

Is this not what happens daily? Are we not always already in the age of mechanical reproduction? The desire to have children is connected by ‘Derrida’ to the Socratic desire to conceive universal, general truths; both operations are ways to defeat finitude, to leave an indelible trace of one’s self. The illusion of philosophers is that the works they brought to life will always conform to the intentions of those who originated them. Behaving as faithful representatives, the texts produced will speak with their authors’ voice, in their stead. Unfortunately, texts, just like children when they grow up, are not infants (speechless); they have their own voice (p. 25). If it is true, as Aristotle suggested, that a man is the father of his books as he is of his children, then being a father can only mean ‘having the extremely joyful and painful experience of the fact that one is not the father – that a son or daughter is someone one does not answer for, or who answers for themselves, who can speak for themselves’.82 Texts and children always end up being, in one way or another, parricides because they are truly alive only when they put in question the authorial sovereignty of the father. In this perspective, one can affirm that writing is a matter of being exposed to death, for the texts signed off will travel without any regard for their author’s original will. Once they are gone one has no control over them. Derrida is conscious of the fact that without the risk of dying, there would be no writing. Yet, accepting the temporary nature of any author and authority, he decides not to do anything to prevent the works he signs, sends, addresses, from turning against himself. Of course such a decision is killing ‘Derrida’, but it would be worse otherwise.83 Worse than death for Rorty would be to give in to the male desires with which the philosophical tradition is tempting Derrida.

In Freud’s account of the unconscious origins of jokes. nor does he want to give birth to works which claim to a validity both general and eternal.’ which can be translated otherwise: no child. And it is powerful. Between us. (p. 39). I know) that the absence of filiation would have been the chance. ‘Envois’ is pretty clear about it: ‘Reproduction prohibited. As it is confessed in ‘Envois’. He just wants to love without producing general truths. 39) Ignoring the desire for filiation – the reproduction of general truths – is the way in which Derrida tries to avoid resembling the family of metaphysics. Derrida’s commitment to avoid ‘the craving for generality’ – to use Wittgenstein’s words – risks being jeopardized by the temptation of surrendering to the spectres of the metaphysical romance. filiation interrupted. inheritance prohibited. 191). He. But such a promise is meaningful only if it can be broken and not kept. the most beautiful and the most living of fantasies. and in Heidegger’s (largely fake) .40 The Domestication of Derrida Sometimes. They are turned to the same side’ (p. it also implies an oath and a commitment. which I have already referenced. ‘two thinkers whose glances never crossed and who. sterile midwives. He wants to disperse seeds and senses via an infinity of addresses. which speak of his private idiosyncrasies and do not aim at positing a public truth effective for everyone. the child remains ‘alive or dead. Derrida is also declaring that he will not be a member of the family. without ever receiving a word from one another. In the colloquium with Ferraris. While stating he is not of the family.’84 Then he explains that such a sentence must not be understood as merely stating a fact. only if it requires a certain effort by the promising subject. it is because both Heidegger and Freud were willing to attach significance to phonemes and graphemes – to the shapes and sounds of words. Derrida states: ‘I am not one of the family. But why specifically can those two help him in stopping the reproduction of tradition? According to Rorty. In fact. who writes postcards and masturbates with texts instead of giving birth to books. The desire for reproduction is tempting. as extravagant as absolute knowledge’ (p. The postcards collected by Derrida are meaningful even if – or better – exactly because they do not make any public or even familiar sense. that he will do his best not to be assimilated to a certain stock. In the attempt to flee from the family of Socrates and Plato – the family that promises to resolve the problematic relation between Subject and predicate – Derrida turns for support to Heidegger and Freud. say the same. is not trying to be right. we can almost hear Rorty’s voice asking philosophy to leave Derrida alone: philosophy should not mess with him since he neither aspires to say anything important. I have always believed (you don’t.

As Rorty convincingly reconstructs. will provoke the anger of quite a few British and American philosophers. Connected to the hierarchic distinction between signifier and signified. its graphic appearance and its sensuousness.86 The Oxonian theory – and let us not forget that the plato-Socrates postcard was discovered in the famous Oxford library – aims at keeping separated the necessary sense of a word from its accidental characteristics. Fido is my dog. Derrida instead believes that the fact that ‘Fido’ actually denotes Fido is something that should be held as relevant.87 It would be very risky if an author. ignoring the subtle and unwittingly metaphysical categorization of the Oxonian philosophy of language. associated with Saussure and Wittgenstein. we get the same attention to what most of the books of la grande e ´ poque have treated as inessential – the ‘material’ and the ‘accidental’ features of the marks and noises people use to get what they want. ‘Envois’ suggests that it is not certain that ‘Fido’ will be tamed by the authority of the sense for which it is supposed to stand. 244). To use Blanchot’s suggestion: one needs to keep separated the empirical meaning from the essential meaning. the Fido–‘Fido’ theory of naming was introduced by Oxford philosophers in order to repropose an argument already found in Plato’s Cratylus: all words are names since their meaning is determined by the things to which they refer. The interest in questioning the hierarchy that reduces the sensuous to the will of the intelligible explains the appearance in ‘Envois’ of another odd couple – Fido and ‘Fido’.The Contingency of Being 41 etymologies. This theory ‘contrasts with the view. assonances and graphic jokes is his way of revaluating what his repudiated family always considered the marginal aspect of a sign: its materiality. puns. Derrida ‘spreads’ quotation marks throughout the text. It is just a banal historic contingency that I. as Derrida foresees. who. even if the French army pillaged and ransacked his home. in order to call my dog. another crucial distinction for the order of metaphysical discourse is the one that distinguishes the sense that a sign has for me and the sense in itself of the sign. refers to an innumerable network of other assonant or dissonant signifiers. The signifier ‘Fido’. nor is it certain that ‘Fido’ is going to be only an obedient example. that words get their sense not simply by association with their referents (if any) but by the relation of their uses to the uses of other words’. have to recur to the signifier F-I-D-O. in a unified front would scream: ‘and quotation marks – they are not to go to the dogs!’ (p. But this gesture. Allied with F-I-D-O. It is incalculable how much the materiality of the signifier influences the determination of the sense which it should merely point out. in a column on the French reception of the philosopher from . as Hegel did recognizing Napoleon as the spirit of the world. the meaning it has for the whole community of speakers.85 Derrida’s practice of multiplying word games. ‘Fido’ is my dog’s name.

Derrida tells us that he was expelled .88 Derrida interprets his own personal interest in the concreteness of existence as the radicalization of Nietzsche’s attempt to handle philosophy through a psychological perspective. Derrida even recognizes the moment from which – for him – it was no longer possible to divide theory from its presumed other. even if this implies the adoption of a totally different – and thus unsettling – order of discourse. Heidegger’s influence. from factuality and empiricity of real life. no Versammlung. Philosophy is historically situated. would end up being considered obscure. the transcendental a priori is always contaminated and infested by the stains of autobiographical empiricity. For Heidegger. Derrida instead does not accomplish this passage. the attempt to show that philosophy is always ‘psychology and biography together’. as is witnessed by the fact that the celebrated father of deconstruction once received a prank call in which the speaker was Heidegger’s ghost.42 The Domestication of Derrida Stuttgart. the empirical and the essential. There is no ontological gathering. it certainly makes its embarrassing debut in the life-world. stopping to play soccer in the dirt fields encountered on the way. The private and the public. It is not hard to recognize in Derrida’s interest for the ‘who’ of philosophy. Such firm belief seems to be exactly what moves Derrida in his experiment with thought. The philosophical ego is always and still a person. the Algiers which he used to cruise in a pedal car. however. representing rather a necessary stage. which could reduce the ontic dispersion. The danger is that such an authorial mode of argumentation. Being and Time unmistakably affirms the necessity to start every analysis from the beings that we are ourselves. the ontic substratum had to be transcended to reach an appropriate ontological level of knowledge. that ‘Hegel’ in France is almost pronounced ‘aigle’. on the empiricity and factuality of his having-been. The Hegel/aigle type of association is for Rorty private. No philosopher can negate it. or perhaps even irrational. He remembers an event that had occurred during his childhood in Algiers. But the attention and respect for the inerasable privacy of effective living. began discoursing about the Napoleonic eagle: since it is not essential. or better – as Heidegger suggested in a handwritten note at the margin of paragraph nine – that I myself am. a temporary situation to overcome. need to be mixed up if the concrete ‘who’ of philosophy is to step up on the scene of writing. the readers would have difficulties understanding the logic of the text.89 In A Taste for the Secret. necessarily lead to the complication of the argumentative style. insofar as it disseminates private allusions in a public speech-act. for the empiric ‘I’ hidden under the philosopher. that is. Yet the original triviality is not an irreducible obstacle for the constitution of a transcendental or phenomenological understanding. of public domain. insofar as it depends on the singularity of one’s life experiences.

87). humanity. Just like anybody else in his daily practice. to navigate around its coasts without running aground on them. on a specific occasion. is never disinterested. Philosophical praxis is thus privatized inasmuch as it is shown that the theorein. his o ` rexis. who writes. Derrida ascribes his inability to distinguish between the materiality of the empirical ‘I’ and the ideality of the transcendental ego. he tries to rewrite his past in order to open new paths for the future. The ambient of culture. contingency. sharing some of Derrida’s experiences.The Contingency of Being 43 from school at the age of eleven for being Jewish (p. Irony. Rorty often recalls a certain passage from Heidegger. was not alien to the concreteness of Europe’s and little Jacques’s history. As he puts it in A Taste for the Secret: ‘philosophy. Being. dated 1942. if. this ‘I’. and Solidarity defining it as the ‘slogan’ of ironist theorizing: . we consider somehow relevant the problem of how to leave metaphysics behind. if we expect from philosophy answers and demonstrations. its place. the books he read. Derrida does not claim to say something about things. or academic philosophy at any rate. Derrida made a compendium. but always contaminated by the desires that every narrative – for being oriented towards the moment of application – chases. its language. brought back to the horizon of love. The imposition of a distinction between the transcendental ego that philosophizes and the empirical ‘I’ interested in the world implies that one can ascend from the worldly and banal reign of idiosyncratic factuality to the transcendental heaven of essential meanings and truths. the date on which a thought was elaborated. What is the purpose of writing in such a way? None. its hour. thinks. To that wound. especially his tensions of desire. language) metaphysics considered of little account. for me has always been at the service of this autobiographical design of memory’ (p. Derrida is able to forge the tools to circumvent philosophy. instead of describing Geist’s trip in search of Absolute Knowledge. For metaphysics. ‘Envois’. the mood and the gender of the one who conceived it. A lot. Of metaphysics. of theory. But Derrida. He approvingly quotes it also in a note from Contingency. all these aspects belong to the sphere of the inessential and of the frivolous. treating it allusively and carelessly. The ‘dirty Jew’ (p. in a determinate place. 41). of knowledge. By creating a new canon. is interested in a phenomenology of Witz which tries to remember and preserve everything (signifiers. the West. expresses the necessity to show that it is always an ‘I’. He is only speaking for himself and for those who had a past analogous to his. like ‘Circumfession’. 38) of Spanish origin from Algiers with fantasy and effort has elaborated a new manner of writing and thinking of philosophy.

our task is to cease all overcoming. the child. The circumvention of philosophy is thus the course which makes us navigate around metaphysics. but then promptly veering us beyond it. and leave metaphysics to itself. 25). Therefore. keeping us close enough to hear its familiar and seductive tune. the child.90 Rorty thinks that Derrida’s narrative about philosophy helps stop paying attention to it. it is written: ‘To the devil with the child.44 The Domestication of Derrida Yet a regard for metaphysics still prevails even in the intention to overcome metaphysics. The lesson that Rorty gains from reading Derrida is: forget the transcendental presupposition. the child’ (p. away from any desire for truth and representation. leave philosophy to itself and start caring for something else. In ‘Envois’. the only thing we ever will have discussed. .

one cannot have both: the choice is between becoming a woman by betraying the norms of tradition.3 Defending Hartman’s light-hearted tone. On the other side are those who admire him for having given us rigorous arguments for surprising philosophical conclusions. Either Derrida is a rigorous thinker. that he [Rorty] has given of many of my texts. (Jacques Derrida. truly not at all in agreement with Rorty. or staying a man by arguing rigorously. especially where he takes his inspiration from my work. in fact. or he has altogether distanced himself from the ‘philosophical machismo’ which inspires the quest for accurate representations. ‘Marx & Sons’) In 1989. It should by now be clear that ‘femininity’ is the quality that Rorty appreciates the most in Derrida. not at all. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’) I am. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism The Double Privacy of Deconstruction I have a great deal of gratitude for the reading. at once tolerant and generous. . For example.Chapter 2 Derrida.4 In a manner of speaking. Richard Rorty commented that for years a quarrel had been simmering among the American admirers of Derrida: ‘On the one side there are the people who admire Derrida for having invented a new. someone who has complied with the argumentative procedures of philosophy and thus proved his conclusions to be right. (Jacques Derrida. splendidly ironic way of writing about the philosophical tradition. Jonathan Culler – perhaps the Jonathan who staged the encounter between Derrida and the Socrates–plato postcard in ‘Envois’2 – declared that using the term ‘Derridadaism’ to label Derrida’s work is ‘a witty gesture by which Geoffrey Hartman blots out Derridian argument’. Rorty deemed Culler’s interpretation of deconstruction as too old-fashioned to grasp Derrida’s originality.’ 1 The first skirmishes had already broken out at the beginning of the 1980s.

Despite recognizing the limitation of his book. would reduce philosophy ‘into a species of applied rhetoric’. deconstruction and pragmatism should in fact work together to blur the distinction between literature and philosophy and advocate the idea of a text that is not interested in determining its own genre but only in producing effects. in order to function. Yet such playful texts declared to fit easily in the reading protocol of The Tain of the Mirror do not even appear in the book’s bibliography.46 The Domestication of Derrida By the time that Rorty released Contingency. Nonetheless. almost exclusively on word games. After all. Rorty was anxious to explain why pragmatism and deconstruction might. This is no mere oversight: once one suggests that these playful texts are primarily the application of ‘infrastructures’ discovered in the first phase . Yet it would be ungenerous to define Rorty’s interpretation of Derrida as a case of misreading (Norris) or misunderstanding (Gasche ´). and Solidarity make it clear that Derrida’s earlier works legitimate Gasche ´ ’s (quasi-)transcendentalizing account of deconstruction. but also Glas (first published in 1974). Gasche ´’s selection excludes not only The Post Card (first published in 1980). nor can it simply be circumvented. go hand in hand. the problem with The Tain of the Mirror is that. and Solidarity – one of the smartest and most energetic books in recent contemporary philosophy – the line-ups were pretty clear. Gasche ´ still insists that the motifs found in earlier works ‘continue to inform and direct Derrida’s more ‘‘playful’’ texts’. Some of the American admirers of Derrida – and one wonders why Rorty defines such admirers ‘American’ or ‘North American’5 when among his primary references only Culler is from the USA – accused Rorty’s ironist pragmatization of Derrida as being too frivolous for them. But philosophy is not just a kind of writing. Pragmatism. Derrida himself suggested that genres should not go unmixed. For this reason – as the ‘American’ Derrideans argued according to Rorty’s self-understanding of the debate – deconstruction deserves more seriousness than Rorty is willing to concede it.6 In Rorty’s opinion. thinking of deconstruction as a protest against the serious claims of classic philosophy would mistake it for a playful celebration of the irrational and unsystematic. it needs to overlook Derrida’s latter work. vulgar allusions and private memories. Irony. for he is well aware that a serious philosophical endeavour is somehow present in Derrida. Irony. as Norris argues. According to Culler. or should. Gasche ´ himself admits that his book.7 As a matter of fact. aiming to expose the essential traits and the philosophical thrusts of deconstruction. it dismisses Derrida’s serious philosophical work by focusing. The ‘American Derrideans’ (Jonathan Culler. jokes. is based on Derrida’s production prior to 1979. instead. The first pages of the chapter dedicated to Derrida in Contingency. Rodolphe Gasche ´ . Christopher Norris) kept affirming that between deconstruction and pragmatism there could be no ‘we’.

as long as Derrida admits that ‘trace’ is just a metaphor. that he can succeed where the shepherd of Being failed. having restored philosophical standing to the nonpresence of signification. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 47 of Derrida’s career. Derrida describes Heidegger’s thought as an attempt to reach the conditions for the possibility of the ontic world. one is not obliged to check what actually happens in them. the one word that no one can afford arguing about. risks establishing ‘an actual ontology of the trace’. after the philosophical context in which the ‘so-called literary texts’ have come to light. 177) – Rorty treats it with indulgence. of what can be shown but not said . but I think that this gesture would distract attention away from the target of Rorty’s polemic. or the one who brought to light a conceptual system that at once belongs to and breaks from the trajectory of transcendental philosophy? While The Tain of the Mirror considers the textualization of Heidegger’s ontology to be the core of deconstruction – ‘the ‘‘source’’ of all being beyond being is generalized. writing’ (p. a tool created to unsettle the stability of transcendental arguments. According to Rorty. Or perhaps one can read them later. . ‘the name of the Ineffable. There would be something that Heidegger did not grasp. Heidegger did not see the trace. a momentary falling for the metaphysical romance. What differentiates the two is the answer to the question of Derrida’s true tonality. According to Derrida. something that Derrida. then . It is final and inevitable since for Derrida it is the ground which simultaneously makes possible and impossible the movement of transcendental philosophy. as I suppose Gasche ´ would concede that there is a literary and bright side to deconstruction. perceived. What is the essential Derrida? Who is Derrida at his best? The one who plays with philosophy. or rather general.Derrida. as a juvenile yielding to nostalgia. Rorty could promptly agree with Gasche ´ that a profoundly philosophical thrust is present in Derrida’s work. . But Derrida goes a step too far when he believes that he can do better than Heidegger. Such an infrastructural entity is the true and only condition of possibility for the existence of the propositions which describe the real.8 The meta-metaphysical word ‘trace’ does not allow revisions and redescriptions. something so clear and evident that no further insight is needed.9 One could explain in detail what the trace is for Derrida (as Gasche ´ had done in a dangerously systematic fashion). What Rorty finds inadequate in Derrida’s early texts is less their particular thetic content than their theoretical justification. circumvents it and helps us stop caring for it. In any case. For example. the one expression of the unconditioned which cannot be treated as the name of one more conditioned. in his exorbitant effort to look into every aspect of the real. As Giorgio Agamben argued: Derrida. that in which we live and move and have our being’. in view of the appropriation of that which cannot be doubted.

performances. The trouble with the question is that it looks like a ‘scientific’ one. just as we know how to debate alternative answers to the questions about the conditions for the actuality of various things. as if we knew how to debate the relative merits of alternative answers. for such a claim betrays the intent to answer a strictly transcendental question about the condition for the possibility of Being. To be argumentative means to be old. Habermas has accused Derrida of being oracular. are argumentative and logical. One needs just a little wit to learn its rules and play along. Kant’s transcendental synthesis. One can be rigorous only by accepting the rules of communicative action. Derrida’s trace: such is the never-ending story of brilliant artistic and poetic creations posing as ultimate unveilings of reality. According to Rorty one cannot step beyond the propositional level. He who doubts such dictates. If deconstruction wants to be deceitful and innovative. with ‘traces’ instead of traces.’11 Derrida’s deconstruction is a clever creation which should not be seduced by the pretension of being the only genuinely scientific method. These are proposals. so any claim of having understood contingency and grasped the condition of its existence is destined to fail. Rigour and demonstration have nothing to do with the game. and part of that price is the inappropriateness to their work of notions like ‘‘argumentation’’ and ‘‘rigor’’. insisting that respectable philosophers like Husserl as opposed to Heidegger. it cannot pretend also to be truthful and argumentative.48 The Domestication of Derrida everything is fine.10 The hunt for conditions of possibility is an old philosophical game. Rorty believes that the exhibition of oracularity is Derrida’s best asset. Rorty concludes: ‘Poetic world-disclosers like Hegel. who complicates the familiar modes of argumentation. has to give up the customary criteria of judgement. The only chance of overcoming Tarski’s nominalistic tautology would consist in explaining how a pre-linguistic reality provokes . not because the community of readers accepted it as meaningful. The movement towards phenomena has first to pass through a vocabulary which necessarily stains the lens with which one looks at the world. Heidegger’s Sorge. The problem arises if Derrida suggests that his argument is true because of its contact with the very infrastructure of reality. Hegel’s self-consciousness. it implies respecting the rules with which ‘they talk’ and accepting the demands of ‘rational’ discourse. one always arrives too late. promises. Rorty questions Derrida exactly when the latter claims to have discovered the trace. since one is always dealing with ‘snow’ and never with snow. Heidegger and Derrida have to pay a price. Nonetheless. traditionalist and conservative. For science and its direct contact with things.

Derrida should be content in playing with the vocabularies he finds on his way in order to keep the future coming – the only ‘beyond’ he should take care of. Derrida’s need to find new metaphors once his current ones lose their poignancy suggests that he is less interested in systematizing the structure of the real. ‘no thing makes sentences and theories true: not experience. For sure. Yet. Derrida cannot state that any discursive formation (present. Without them. The probatory vectors do not run vertically from the mind to the world but they redirect us horizontally to other mind products. the devices that allowed its discourses to be produced. However. it is not wrong to understand Derrida’s metaphors as infrastructures. it is impossible to explain the way in which the world provokes the words we use to talk about it. would it be possible to lay such a general claim. in one word. finite – it cannot avoid being recontextualized and transformed into a totally different infrastructure. one could finally justify a belief by exhibiting its extratextual conditions. than in shaking it up in order to promote its afterwards. to be coherent with his own anti-transcendental therapy. not surface irritations. cannot profess that the structures he introduced on the philosophical scene have a dignity which other metaphors lack. But in order to be consistent with the Davidsonian intuition that ‘any level of meaning must be language-like’. as Davidson puts it. Given this interest.Derrida. Any structure that is in fact marked by finitude must imply the possibility of becoming other than itself. and our propositions on other propositions. can make a sentence true’. Unfortunately. something that is not already textual. If one were able to do so. not the world. contingent. past or future) necessarily works on the ground of diffe ´rance. Therefore Derrida.12 Davidson suggests that our beliefs can be justified only on the basis of other beliefs.13 that no magic language or name can ever be proper and final. of offering transcendental insights on the conditions for the possibility of Being as such. they are the conditions of the possibility of deconstruction. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 49 linguistic entities. Derrida would not be who he is. But if the structure is already textual – which for Rorty means historical. in showing the infrastructures which ground it. Derrida has to dismiss the belief that there exists a hidden logical space from where to anticipate the structure of any possible utterance. A response and not the response because. . in a certain sense. He cannot silently enforce the presupposition that certain special ‘non-words’ are somehow able to mirror something beyond and behind the propositional truths. exposed to falsification. Rorty concludes that Derrida should be satisfied with having given a response to the tradition that is influential to the present of philosophy. Only by being the God-like entity which one cannot be. Instead of foreclosing what might be. how the world gear moves the language gear. For this reason.

He dropped theory and started wondering the mental associations produced by a thought liberated from the necessity of trying adequately to represent the structure of the world. Irony. there cannot be a sole authentic way of engaging it. playing with them.’ and. avoid the trap into which Heidegger fell by attempting to affiliate with or incarnate into something larger than himself. and thereby breaks down the tension between ironism and theorizing. Furthermore. Rorty writes – in a passage crucial for understanding his privatization of deconstruction – that Derrida’s greatest merit consists in transforming philosophical reflection into a private matter. but. the only endowment that Derrida’s texts possess is the exhibition that something original can still be performed. more generally. and Solidarity. In my view. but it is also private because it deprives itself of any political pretension. For Rorty. nor any public (pedagogic or political) use to be made of them. consists in what Gasche ´ refers to disdainfully as ‘wild and private lucubrations. Derrida’s eventual solution to the problem of how to avoid the Heideggerian ‘we.’ The later Derrida privatizes his philosophical thinking. deconstruction at its best is able to reduce philosophy to a production of fantasies which neither claim to be true nor to have any political relevance. privatizing itself in a self-referential fantasizing. they may nevertheless be exemplary – suggestions of the sort of thing one might do. Deconstruction is private because it breaks free from every metaphysical and transcendental demand. such performances can only be ‘private’ for Derrida has abandoned the search for infrastructures as well as the Heideggerian narcissistic idea that philosophical tradition set the course for the history of the ‘West’. he left behind all the dreams of totalization and systematicity and started experimenting with new ways of writing. giving free rein to the trains of associations they produce. for Derrida’s readers. He simply drops theory – the attempt to see his predecessors steadily and whole – in favor of fantasizing about those predecessors. Once Derrida eventually realized that it is always bad to foretell what is possible and what is not. There is no moral to these fantasies.50 The Domestication of Derrida since the legacy itself is irreducibly plural. In the sixth chapter of Contingency. Whether or not Derrida was initially tempted by the transcendental project which Gasche ´ ascribes to him. I suggest that we read Derrida’s later writings as turning such systematic projects of undercutting into private jokes. a sort of thing rarely done before. The importance of this passage requires an unabridged citation.14 It appears evident that Rorty’s interpretation ends up labelling the later Derrida with a sort of ‘double privacy’. therefore bridging the old gap between philosophy and literature. Since they cannot demonstrate anything or refute anybody without falling in the much maligned metaphysical tradition. I organized the first chapter around the strengths of Rorty’s .

on the other hand. Before discussing the limits of the privatization of deconstruction. It is now time to start questioning the double privacy that Rorty attributes to Derrida. deconstruction is rescued from its most severe critics. This gesture. is grounded. On the few occasions when Derrida commented on it. in the next I will discuss his intolerance. to recall Derrida’s reactions to Rorty’s reading protocol.Derrida. I think it is useful. actually anesthetizes deconstruction into an . is in fact repressive. In this way. which may seem to be liberal and accommodating. from Descartes to Kant and beyond. might almost converge. an activity liberated from the presuppositions on which the whole philosophical tradition. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 51 rearrangement of deconstruction. the legitimacy of affirming that Derrida has not only dismissed but also mocked the desire to engage philosophy with political struggle. etc.15 The tolerance which enables Rorty to grant Derrida the right to say whatever he wants to. For example. but only on the condition that it gives up any pretension of being involved with ‘the truth’. but at the cost of being forbidden to engage in any serious aspiration. better. Foucault. the legitimacy of reducing deconstructive writing to a sort of autobiographical drift. suggesting the directions where pragmatism and deconstruction might converge or. He generously awards Derrida the success of having circumvented the metaphysical tradition by transforming theory into autobiography. insofar as it seeks to strip anyone who complicates the question of philosophy and the relations between philosophy and literature of any claim to deal with truth.). What Ferraris had previously suggested is actually true: Rorty allows deconstruction to do whatever it wishes. a desire that has deeply dominated French contemporary thought (Sartre. In the pages that follow. but intolerantly claims that Derrida should be considered a thinker lacking any public dimension. I will argue that the latter kind of privacy is altogether unacceptable. In this chapter I deal with Rorty’s generosity. Deleuze. Rorty at once expects too much anti-philosophy and too little politics from Derrida. Lyotard. In order to challenge Rorty’s attempt to align deconstruction with the American pragmatist tradition. while the former eludes the problematics of deconstruction and is thus inadequate by itself. it will be necessary to consider the legitimacy of the two key features of his interpretation: on the one hand. he will neither denounce nor make fun of it. Derrida defines the interpretation of someone like Rorty as a case of ‘repressive tolerance’. during the dialogue with Maurizio Ferraris constituting the first part of A Taste for the Secret. his hostility was obvious. as anticipating the tone of my arguments. I will show that both witness Rorty’s desire not to take Derrida and deconstruction seriously either from a philosophical or a political point of view.

the grimace of a good taste naive enough to believe that one can efface the labor of theory. and a few others. . His interpretation is wilfully superficial because it does not want to look with more patience at the relation between the playful dimension of Derrida’s writing and its serious philosophical thrust. .’ and I find nothing more vulgar than this Franco-Britannic decorum. praised in a book in this collection ‘Les Contemporains. . Rorty’s favourite hero.e. and opposing resistance to theory. European in truth. I associate with it Joyce. Derrida opposes the widespread misunderstanding that reads in his work ‘a declaration that there is nothing beyond language . 16 In another interview. philosophy is marvellous. . so much time and energy on carefully reading the philosophical texts which he writes about. Derrida clarifies that. . the salon literature of that republic of letters. it looks as if Rorty thinks it is not worthwhile to spend.18 To believe in an unserious Derrida. . The cause for a moment of anger and irony is a sentence in which Proust advocates – so to speak – the purification from every philosophical stain. does not amount to saying that there is nothing beyond language’. on the contrary. As art. it is no longer important to take it seriously and to argue about it. according to Rorty. and other stupidities of that sort’. to challenge or complicate our common assumptions about it. is to avoid the effort to read him.. Heidegger. Such is the ruse of Rorty’s strategy: as soon as philosophy is reduced to literature. . recognizes the obvious fact that it is always and already something creative (i. and mediocre theory at that. I am not willing to go as far as Ferraris who affirms – perhaps winking at Derrida – that . I display. one can start to enjoy philosophers for the great artists that they are. Derrida writes: I remember having gone to bed very late after a moment of anger and irony against a sentence of Proust’s. Rorty’s ‘brand new’ idea of philosophy is actually not so different from what Derrida notices in Flaubert’s 1868 letter to his niece Caroline: once philosophy admits its end. or rather waste. . not so that the price be legible to the first-comer. literature). Wittgenstein. thus aligning with theoretical asceticism. a Derrida purely lacking theories.17 One last example: in ‘Circumfession’ – which. is one of Derrida’s best moments because in this ‘diary’ he gives up any transcendental claim and writes a Proustian memorial – Derrida picks on Proust himself. ‘[t]o distance oneself from the habitual structure of reference.’ which says: ‘A work in which there are theories is like an object on which one has left the price tag. A certain labour is required to see the theories attached.. and I admit that I write with the price on. the one he never criticizes. you have to pay the price to read the price displayed.52 The Domestication of Derrida aestheticized privacy completely detached from the space of public debates. By contrast. as if there wasn’t any in Pr.

Rorty is too fast in deciding that the signer of the love letters is Derrida himself. it is important to underline that there is no textual evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the signer of The Post Card is the author of the dispatches that compose ‘Envois’. We do not even know if the sender is always the same (‘You are right. In fact. (Giorgio Agamben. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 53 the inquisitor who burns books. where terms touch their limits. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak indicates. Is it not too generous to assume that Derrida. is more respectful of their theses than the ironist in the contingent. As Derrida’s comments quoted above reveal.Derrida. Derrida enters into the Paradise of language. doubtless we are several’). like Aher. This bizarre collection of postcards is obviously the text upon which Rorty grounds his thesis that Derrida switches from philosophy to autobiography. he experiences the exile of terminology.21 just as we do not know if the ‘thou’ to whom the cards are addressed changes in time. both the sender(s) and the receiver(s) remain . ‘ Pardes: the writing of potentiality’) Before dealing in detail with Monolingualism of the Other – the essay which will prepare a general critique of post-philosophical arguments – let me start by highlighting some gaps in Rorty’s reading of ‘Envois’. and sometimes even their authors. its paradoxical subsistence in the isolation of all univocal reference. Derrida is not at all happy about the theoretical ascetism – to use a fortunate expression coined by Gasche ´ in referring to Ernst Tugendhat20 – with which Rorty labels him. solidaire and ironic republic of ideas. he is explicitly resistant to the kind of interpretation Rorty proposes of his work. at a certain point of his philosophical career. And. Firstly. he ‘cuts the branches’.19 However. it will not suffice to rely on Derrida’s reaction. But a more respectful reading of the text reveals a plot very different from that described by Rorty. starts avoiding the urge for transcendentality and confines his thought to a propositional and linguistic conception of truth? Is it true that Derrida moves in a hermitage sheltered from any theoretical and transcendental temptation? Does he actually stop referring to the public world and take refuge in a post-philosophical and post-transcendental privacy? In order to answer these questions. it is clear that Rorty’s reading is too quick to grasp deconstruction without betraying its spirit. The only way of judging the validity of Rorty’s interpretation is by paying close attention to what happens in Derrida’s texts. On the Very Possibility of Biographical Writing Like Aher.

‘However’. as a photograph depends on its subject or a (realistic) picture on its model?’ Since the genre of autobiography ‘is in fact governed by the technical demands of self-portraiture’. it is impossible to conclude that the events and facts to which the postcards allude exist beyond the fictive space of the re ´ cit. for one . and even if they contain phantasms.22 Derrida himself warns of this complication in the ‘reading instructions’ which precede the collection of sendings: ‘That the signers and the addressees are not always visibly and necessarily identical from one envoi to the other . that Derrida himself is the protagonist of the love story told in the postcards. autobiographies seem to depend on actual and potentially verifiable events more clearly than other literary genres. 5).25 If ‘Envois’ is a work of fiction – a ‘redescription’ to put it in Rorty’s terms – then the claim that it finds its poignancy in Derrida’s private and real life does not hold. Since addressor(s) and the addressee(s) cannot be identified. Rorty’s compliments to Derrida for having ended philosophy and embraced autobiography are based on a text whose status is not clear. he stubbornly proceeds to highlight the autobiographical character of ‘Envois’. something which might or might not refer to Derrida’s private life. although confusedly’ (p. is something not provable. Once the impossibility of identifying the invisible author of the postcards has been recognized. As de Man argued in the opening remarks of his ‘Autobiography as de-facement’. and sometimes will feel it quite vividly. their meaning would still remain rooted in the identity of a subject who lived the narrated experiences. the life that apparently produces the autobiography can be said ‘with equal justice’ to be itself produced and determined by the autobiographical genre and its conventions. the fact that autobiographies deal with real lives is an assumption much questioned in literary studies. Rorty hastens to affirm that ‘Envois’ finds its poignancy in the reference to ‘real-life events and people’.23 That such events and people are real. since we cannot know if they are real existing beings or merely fictional characters. real or imaginary. Without taking into serious consideration Derrida’s opening disclaimers. you will have the experience of all this. Recalling in a footnote the passage I quoted above on the difficult identificability of the signatures in the envois. Rorty is well aware of the fact that the life which organizes the postcards can be Derrida’s or someone else’s. . another undecidability steps in. dreams and deviations. But – and the point de Man makes about autobiographies whose ‘proper name’ is readable is even more evident in ‘Envois’ where the author withdraws from the scene of writing – can we be certain ‘that autobiography depends on reference. one has no way of deciding if the postcards refer to actual persons and events. So basically.24 Autobiographies function on the basis of a true reference to life. .54 The Domestication of Derrida unidentifiable. Moreover. If one cannot be sure that ‘Envois’ speaks of Derrida and his private life.

and yet remaining intrinsically illegible. if they are philosophy or literature – is also marked by the fact that the stream of writing is often interrupted by fifty-two blank spaces. I don’t cease to verify this. When we read the postcards. of knowing what the postcards refer to. to whom they are destined. what it is. look like an umbrella? Why are Socrates and Plato inverted? Why the small ‘p’? The reading of the postcards should take into account the impotence of solving their meaning. The genreless ‘Envois’ – i. the same sort of powerlessness one experiments when facing the fragment in which . Reading the postcards. that poses an even bigger problem for Rorty because he cannot any longer maintain that with ‘Envois’ Derrida has distanced himself from any desire of mimetic referentiality. 4): the presumption of knowing what the text is all about. if they are jokes or if they are symbols to decipher. just punctuation marks or even the text of one or more letters. 188) The secret persists. but must immediately circulate. one should be aware of the fact that the secrets hidden by the blank spaces will always be kept unsolved.d. one of the problems with Rorty’s use of ‘Envois’ is that the difficulties of defining the genre of autobiography undo his attempt to distinguish a referential (philosophical) and a post-referential (literary) Derrida. and its remnants produce the never-ending movement of reading. we are never sure if we should take them seriously. on the postcard that surprises Derrida. And if it does accurately represent real events and real people. The eroded surface might either hide a proper name.. Derrida seems to exclude the possibility of finding a single hermeneutical end for his dispatches. to indicate that part of the correspondence has been destroyed. the impossibility of deciding about its real meaning. if it is not ‘literature’. 9 May 1979 . of truth and representation. Multiplying and disseminating the destinations.e. if they are genuine letters or just parodies of the epistolary diary. who they are from. It remains secret. Derrida writes that he himself has forgotten the secret code which governed the erasing. The secret of the postcards burns – the hands and the tongues – it cannot be kept. One has to accept that the blanks which allow a text to be interpreted simultaneously make its deciphering impossible. q. . .e. (p. Derrida uses such a sign. The postcards bear witness to their secrecy: exposed to the indiscreet eyes of curious postmen. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 55 cannot simply say that autobiographies speak about real events and real people. one should give up ‘the impatience of the bad reader’ (p. Why does Socrates’ hat. Briefly.Derrida. like the most hermetic and most fascinating of anonymous – and open – letters. such an absence of signs. And for this very reason.

And. French is Derrida’s mother tongue.26 Rorty instead is too anxious to decide where the postcards are coming from and where they are going. in the privacy of the home as in the publicity of the market. paradoxically and aporetically French. it is not mine. but exiled on its shores. But no matter how hard Rorty tries to derive a strategy of forgetfulness from an author obsessed by the necessity of remembering. he is monolingual.’28 Derrida speaks only one language. But. administrative language’ (p. Nonetheless. He believes ‘Envois’ to be the moment in which Derrida starts forgetting about transcendental philosophy and everything that has ever been linked to it. was ‘naturally’ crossed first by Berber languages from Maghreb.27 Not even in his most private moments. French was in the process of completely replacing Arabic ‘as the official. this language. He is sure he knows what is going on. Nonetheless. . a language and a culture is not pacific. a production of France’s school system. At the time when Derrida was still a child. the language spoken in the family and at school. his only language is not really his since he is not able to acknowledge it as his own: Yet it will never be mine. Feeling not at home in it. of the classics one reads in school as the foundations of Frenchness. in fact. I will show that the language of philosophy makes itself remembered even when Derrida is telling stories about the ups and downs of his private life. such communion with a nation. then by Arabic. you see. it never was. his so-called native country. truth to tell. Derrida tells the problematic story of his belonging to France. Derrida simply cannot ‘forget about philosophy as the liberated slave forgets his master’. everyday. Discussing some passages from Derrida’s ‘autobiographical’ Monolingualism of the Other. One should not forget that Derrida learned how to speak in Algeria. such closeness. in the colony. in spite of such familiarity. During a colloquium at Louisiana State University. It is continuously bothered and disturbed by a small but infinite distance. never will this language be mine. 37). as long as speech is possible for me in life and death.56 The Domestication of Derrida Nietzsche declared ‘I have forgotten my umbrella’. (p. 2) Derrida recognizes himself to be a French product. in a place that. before French colonization invaded it with its language and culture. by the expanse of the sea which separates a non-observant Jew born in Algiers from the capital Paris. the only one I am thus destined to speak. underestimating the exile from univocal reference that disorganizes Derrida’s sendings. The childhood he spent in Algiers makes him. the language his mother and father spoke. French cannot be considered his language: ‘I only have one language. To live on board of the French language does not exclude being at the border of France.

In Algeria. a metropolis. the names of every district’s capital and all of its rivers. So.29 Derrida. and that the identification with a certain language and the nation it represents is thus the effect of a constitutive dressage. citizenship granted to them but not to Muslim Algerians by the Cre ´mieux Decree of 1870 with the aim of assimilating them to Frenchness. with an ‘occupation’ that did not even bring to Algeria a single German uniform. dominated the scene of culture. we should also recall that in 1943 under Petain. German. is not linked to French by some sort of an organic connection. Language does not naturally grow on a piece of land. to any homeland. whereas we could draw the coast of Brittany and the Gironde estuary with our eyes closed’ (p. . Arabic: a foreign language one might choose among others (English. one would have learned by heart France’s history and geography. It is never autochthonous but always imported. to any language. Latin was required). not autochthonous but imported by an intimidating Paris.Derrida. To understand Derrida’s problematic relation to France better. He had to learn how to speak it. Derrida’s mother would not have had to teach it to her speechless son. 44). No one is ever a native or a native speaker because no nation and no language can ever claim to have a natural right over a certain land. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 57 French was becoming the mother tongue of Algeria to the point that Arabic in the lyce ´e was taught as an optional foreign language. a linguistic ‘second nature’ – to use a term common to Wittgenstein and Nietzsche – had to be imposed by Georgette on her little Jackie. not a single note on its history and its geography. Paris. which came from far away. He was trained to act ‘as if’ it were natural to speak such determined language. But since the earth does not have a nomos. a different existing symbolic place would make him feel more at home and at ease. It functions as a ban from the possibility of speaking a very proper language. Spanish. He does not claim that another nation or community. If French were innate. But ‘not a word about Algeria. of truly being himself. Growing up in the colony. Derrida recognizes the impossibility of belonging without doubts or dissonance to any country. in the dimension organized around a spectral centre located elsewhere. the government revoked French citizenship from Jews. On the contrary. The home called Algeria depended on the super-home that was France. how can French belong to Derrida – and thus Derrida to France – if such a primary property (the property over a language) had been assigned to him by external authorities? His own origin assumes the configuration of an alien colonization. on the authentic mater-polis. a mother on another mother. Algiers. French. That is why the mother tongue should not be considered a natural mother at all. At school. Derrida suggests that the production of speaking individuals from mute infants always and inevitably involves a violence. in fact.

of any consciousness – it is the a priori condition for the existence of an ‘anybody’ to steal from. simply because it is possible as thought and statement. it constantly shifts from autobiographical remembering to a reflection on the very possibility of writing the self. in the very moment in which it is lived. no alienation historically determined would . universal. 20). is forced to use a French vocabulary influenced by Heidegger’s conceptual web. which does not take away anything from anybody since – being situated before and on this side of any subjectivity. a demonstrable truth. These are Derrida’s memories. ‘mine. an event. The confession. One comes to wonder if the personal and private alienation experienced by Derrida is not the ontic realization of the necessary and ontological alienation. The contamination of such jargon provokes the impossibility of writing a pure biography. that reduces the event to an example. he declares himself to be incapable of saying without hesitation je. has to be expressed in terms that overcome the privacy of life. 19). It is evident that Derrida. These terms end up attributing a general value to life. ‘I’. to a case of general law. especially by the notion of Dasein as the being whose peculiarity is to be given to impropriety. 30 Being always already an other. even before being expressed linguistically. it is important to underscore that Monolingualism of the Other is not solely a private diary. of any ipseity. to live a pure real life immune to theoretical and universal germs. against someone like Rorty who would rush to sanction this text as autobiographical. it is not mine’. Insofar as it can only be said in the vocabulary that one was taught – no private language is possible – every event that can be told exists only within the horizon of expectations of a mother tongue. a memoir neglectful of the philosophical language. transcendental. a validity ‘in some way structural. a situation with an exclusively private value. assumes the value of a philosophical position. ‘I only have one language. recall and reconstruct why for him French had always been the language of. However. the other. and from. for example’ (p. the anamnesis through which he attempts to remember. or ontological’ (p. In fact. The problem Derrida faces is that any account of a contingent and singular situation. thus denying its private character.58 The Domestication of Derrida Derrida does not hesitate to affirm that his own linguistic identity has always been problematic to him because he perceives it not as his own but as an effect of renvois from elsewhere. There is a sort of inertia in the language in which we live. think and speak. Without such inalienable alienation. to give an account of himself. has a dimension which is not purely private since one can live experiences (Erleben) only within a linguistic constellation. Does not the account of a unique and unrepeatable event such as one’s life fall victim to generality as soon as one talks about it? Does not public language always contaminate the privacy of memory? Or better.

past. since its own possibilities are not posited by itself but inherited from history.Derrida. The result of ‘rendering-contingent’ philosophy or ‘rendering-philosophical’ contingency is nevertheless the confirmation of philosophy’s jargon. the law coming from abroad. of course. 20). Derrida’s private emotional tonality. Speaking of the colonizing French from Louisiana (a territory that. this inalienable alienation. But what does it mean to be the universal hostage? I think it means two things at once. we just need to learn about that one hostage par excellence. The feeling of never being at home. the universal hostage also refers to the fact that any particular event can be considered as the mere realization of a universal law. as Algeria. try to reverse the terms of the argument. Derrida’s personal case appears nothing more than a revelatory example. the one who serves as the form or archetype of all present. Derrida thus wonders if just the fact of being heard and understood does not makes him ‘the universal hostage’ (p. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 59 ever be possible. Derrida seems to say that a certain colonizing violence is always present. also applies to all human beings. to the law of the other. of the transcendental structure that everyone. perhaps even an exemplary revelation. For instance. 25). Therefore. Second. Derrida notes: ‘This structure of alienation without alienation. so too culture is never natural. being held captive by the structure of philosophical discursivity. First. it also structures the peculiarity [le propre] and property of language’ (p. The reasons for the impossibility of a passage from theory to autobiography can be drawn from two of Derrida’s essays which deal with declarations of philosophy’s death. bears vivid witness to that public ontological structure called Unheimlichkeit: what holds for him. However. the universal hostage is the one who is the most representative case of being held hostage: if we want to understand what a hostage is. one might want to state – as Rorty does – that the existentiality of Dasein is only Heidegger or Derrida’s generalization of their own private situation and feeling. and future hostages. Rereading some passages from . had gone through French colonization). acts out. that is. one cannot avoid being held hostage by a generalizing and transcendental tone. Derrida is the universal hostage since he is the ideal example of being held hostage and also because everything that he – as anybody – has lived falls hostage to generality. Just as any Dasein can exist only outside itself. whether consciously or not. Derrida’s uncommon life ends up appearing nothing else but the actualization of the transcendental infrastructure that made its happening possible in the first place. In the manner in which colonial rape might be acknowledged as an embodiment of a more general and ontological violence. even in this way. Why? Because there is no experience which is not already subjected to language. native or peaceful. is not only the origin of our responsibility. One can also.

In fact. a figure in order to signify figuration] knife-grinders. Since philosophy claims to be the purest mode of argumentation. who instead of knives and scissors. should put metals and coins to the grindstone to efface the exergue. that is. affirming the contingency of any conceptual operation. the ironists. it has to make its relation with the naive life-world disappear. has hidden in itself sensible figures drawn from the language human beings ‘naturally’ use every day.60 The Domestication of Derrida ‘White mythology’ and ‘On an newly arisen apocalyptic tone in philosophy’. when they make a language for themselves. German or French about them. comparison. When they have worked away till nothing is visible in their crownpieces. it also has to erase the sources of its own discourse. To succeed. a date and a place. one can always contest the universality of the categories magically discovered. As Rorty concludes: ‘There is nothing done within the Kantian tradition which the dialectical tradition cannot treat as the description of the practices of a certain historical moment. nor the Republic. Rorty’s Hidden Reductionism Philosophy. protest that all discourses are marked by a time and a space. Derrida treats France’s scepticism as an example of the typical arguments against the labour of theory: to the transcendental projects that aim at unveiling the conditions of the possibility of experience. the Emperor William. neither King Edward. the value and the head.’32 While the Kantians – the ‘Metaphysicians’ in France’s dialogue – are busy concealing the mundane origins of their production to increase its value. . they say: ‘These pieces have nothing either English. the set of abstract notions produced by theory. they are not worth five shillings any more. and their exchange value is extended indefinitely. it will be clearer why Rorty’s circumvention of philosophy is impossible to accomplish. a dialogue subtitled ‘On the language of metaphysics’. are like [image.31 It is with this long extract from Anatole France’s dialogue between Polyphilos (who is speaking above) and Aristos. more honestly. that Derrida begins his 1971 ‘White mythology’. By this needy knife-grinder’s activity words are changed from a physical to a metaphysical acceptation. philosophy does not only have to produce concepts. if the quotidian and the contingent which contaminate the purity of the concepts were not overlooked. we have freed them from all limits of time and space. Consider the following passage: I was thinking how the Metaphysicians. they are of an inestimable value. the attempts to pass philosophy for the ‘science of sciences’ would fail.’ They are right in speaking thus.

Rorty tries to rescue philosophy from its disappointing delusions by recalling that no philosophy can ever succeed. just and reasonable. However. Metaphysics is charged with being white man’s mythology.34 Philosophy (Rorty) and sciences (Husserl) must be challenged for they do not bear memory of their contamination with the interested and practical dimension of the life-world. It is thus a matter of finding evidences to bring to court.35 Such Western mythology. the ironist resists metaphysics’ conspiracy of silence by reactivating the material origin of the theories produced by transcendental philosophers. he approvingly quotes Polyphilos’ discourse in a note of ‘Philosophy without mirrors’ – the concluding chapter of his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. For France and Rorty. was able to disguise itself as candid. the mark of the natural world would still block the elevation of the ego beyond life’s contingencies. such traces would disclose an embarrassing connivance with the sensible world that metaphysics pretends to have surpassed. In the Crisis. at least until the ironists appeared on the scene of history. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 61 Rorty’s positions are clearly in syntony with France’s sceptical dismissal of philosophy. Husserl claims that the ‘meaning-fundament’ of pure geometry is in the art of land surveying: if such original meaning-giving practice is ignored. In a similar fashion. Philosophy would then be nothing other than the skilful process through which contingent words are erased of their imprints. As a good debunker. Philosophy needs to make its origin disregarded to succeed in the project in which it is involved. whatever precautions one might take. on the grounds of philosophical systems there is the everyday language camouflaged as something special. he highlights the evidence to nail down philosophy. one must acknowledge that ideality has its ground in a non-theoretical approach to the world. The criminal business of philosophy is to make one lose track of its theoretical coins and peddle them as pure concepts.’33 It will be mortuary and mortal because it wears out the vital force of the terrain on which it originated and. ‘Constitutionally. . acts as if it has no bond with such a field. Failure is inevitable because. geometry would be condemned to a perpetual crisis. In order to reactivate the proper meaning of the great products of spirit. In fact. philosophical culture will always have been an obliterating one. at the same time. and remind the suspected discourses – in a Kantian attitude indeed – of their genealogy and their grounds. those which live in dreams. in a trial before a judge. Husserl subjects European sciences to a similar investigation: to the disciplines that forgot or never knew their limits.Derrida. Worldly productions ascend to the hyperuranium as long as philosophers recycle the corrupted natural language in theory’s heaven. the mythos which tries to remove from its logos every sensible stain and consequently rule in the name of Reason. In fact. one has to show the concrete contingency of their provenance.

following Nietzsche. a classical philosopheme. the trace of natural language) in the philosophical system in order to criticize its legitimacy are nothing but variations of philosophy itself. in all its essential characteristics. for life to expose its full productivity. that is. But now the time is right for the veil to fall.62 The Domestication of Derrida Philosophy is considered the fog. Deconstruction for Rorty is the ultimate Lebensphilosophie. I will recognize mine. [L]et us rather attempt to recognize in principle the condition for the impossibility of such a project. coins which have lost their pictures and count now only as pure value. deconstruction always needs to be conjugated in the first-person singular. Rorty appreciates Derrida exactly for exhibiting ‘life-world’ as the source of the meaningfulness of his envois. 219) Discourses which look for metaphors (i. then deconstruction is impossible. Nevertheless. in a deep and constitutive manner. a metaphysical concept. nothing less than the usage of so-called natural language in philosophical discourse. is in Derrida’s own actual life.37 If one decides – for instance on the basis of the belief that metaphors . the sad veil shrouding the living meaning of life. Acknowledge your contingency. the usage of natural language as philosophical language’ (p. 209). But such thoughts are not as weak as they want to be. the limit would be the following: metaphor remains. is for Derrida a commandment complicit. claim that truths are illusions whose deceptive nature has been forgotten. The hermeneutics of suspicion. in the concreteness of his unphilosophical being-in-theworld. Growing out of the life of Jacques Derrida. one should conclude that every endeavour to unmask philosophy’s presumed purity is troubled by a constitutional aporia. (p. its deepest ground.. most abstract form. If deconstruction is that which Rorty wishes it to have become in the latter phase of Derrida’s career. As Derrida puts it: ‘metaphor seems to involve the usage of philosophical language in its entirety. with the history of metaphysics.e. Derrida had himself already clarified almost forty years ago in ‘White mythology’ that the ascetic project of escaping from metaphysics to inaugurate an afterwards is not feasible. Deconstruction avoids the dishonesty of transcendental philosophy admitting that its ultimate reason. But if pragmatism can menace the system of metaphysics only from within and not attack it from abroad. no longer as coins. In its most impoverished.36 Rorty uses deconstruction as if it were a ladder built by Derrida to climb over philosophers’ claim to speak for a ‘we’ and to access an epoch that can serenely accept the idiosyncrasy of any theoretical system. metaphors which are exhausted and without sensuous power. since they unconsciously employ the conceptual outcomes of that very tradition with which they want to break.

Rorty’s discussion of the presumed merits of ‘Envois’ and ‘Circumfession’ locates theory’s condition of possibility in the practice from which it stems. as one might have already figured out. The point de Man makes is that Nietzsche’s overcoming of the distinction between philosophy and literature is based on his ‘deconstruction’ of the principle of noncontradiction. According to Nietzsche. Irony. argues Derrida. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 63 rather than statements determine most of our philosophical convictions38 – to detect the metaphors which sign the body of the philosophical. 125). for he infers from the premiss ‘truth is not a matter of correspondence to reality’ the conclusion ‘what we call . showing that any philosophy is an autobiography. The problem is that the search for metaphors is inspired by the same desires which organize the very tradition whose authority one is trying to dismantle. it fails to perform the deed to which the text owed its status as act’ (p. the axioms of logic cannot be said to adequate to reality. In order to look for metaphors. distinguishing its structure ‘from all the other turns of speech with which metaphor is too often confused’ (p. produce a rigorous concept of metaphor. The second note of his Contingency. because first of all – as I have argued in the first chapter – he tries to get rid of the dichotomy between the literal and the figural. one should conclude that the principle of non-contradiction ‘contains no criterion of truth. but an imperative concerning that which should count as true’. are inspired by de Man’s account of Nietzsche’s rhetoric of persuasion. The critiques I am directing against Rorty’s pragmatism. Rorty himself gets involved in philosophy’s business. Of course Rorty does not employ the concept of metaphor produced by the metaphysical tradition. However. it proposes an irrevocable conclusion on what logic really is. and Solidarity states that Nietzsche (along with Derrida) is liable to the charges of selfreferential inconsistency. 220). one must know what a metaphor essentially is. one must first. is a gesture which can occur only within the bounds of metaphysic. Rorty is well aware of the risks of inconsistency in arguing that constative language is not really a constatation but rather a performance. To claim so. But in doing so. As de Man comments in Allegories of Reading: ‘The text deconstructs the authority of the principle of contradiction by showing that this principle is an act.Derrida. which for Rorty equates to the reduction of theory to life. For this reason. It appears that one cannot speak about the metaphorical without at the same time reinforcing the rule of the transcendental. the very reduction of philosophy to metaphors.39 The problem with this claim is that while it ultimately suggests that logic is not grounded on the correspondence to reality but on pragmatic reasons. at the same time. but when it acts out this act. In order to do so. one would need to know reality before logic ‘schemes’ adequate to it.

Bennington argues that an etymological critique of philosophy which tries to bring abstract notions back to the sensory and a-philosophical world is grounded on the persuasion that philosophical discourse. Just eight pages after stating that Nietzsche is inconsistent in claiming to know what he himself claims cannot be known – i. precisely what he has banned and forbidden.64 The Domestication of Derrida ‘‘truths’’ are just useful lies’. is ‘merely forgotten or worn-out metaphors. silently turns back to them. rather. So. Rorty states: ‘truth is simply the most coherent and powerful theory. in its apparent seriousness. Yet all the critiques Rorty directs against transcendental philosophy are clearly informed by the Nieztschean intuition that redescriptions do not mirror meaning but. He wears the costume of a bandit who traffics in ‘transcendental presupposition’.42 Since Rorty admits to thinking of philosophy in exactly those terms. Rorty feels compelled to defend his pragmatist account of philosophy ‘as a gray and sad fable’ against the charge of being self-refuting.e. the truth on truth – Rorty buys without hesitation Nietzsche’s reversal of Platonism. Rorty bases his arguments on the very inference which he previously discarded as generated by confusion. By reconstructing the movement of ‘White mythology’. It is obvious in fact that the point Bennington makes about Habermas and Foucault also concerns Rorty. power or coherence – he ends up playing the very part he denounced in Nietzsche and Derrida. the structure of his argument restores it.. mystified in proposing itself as the very truth’.’41 The point is that since Rorty is incapable of avoiding a hidden reference to something extratextual – here. declaring that his own account of intellectual history chimes with Nietzsche’s definition of ‘truth’ as a ‘mobile army of metaphors’. a particularly gray and sad fable. while Rorty denounces the transcendental as a grey and sad fable. ‘quite simple’.43 The law of the transcendental contraband consists in this: the act of claiming to have turned the page on transcendental arguments. such a discourse puts life in the transcendental position in regard to the transcendental itself. The entirety of Rorty’s work is in fact studded with definitions of truth. The irony is that Rorty himself cannot help but commit the exact same crime. and even if Bennington does not mention him in this passage. Let me give another example of such self-referential inconsistency. of being closer to Kant than it realizes. and no relation of ‘‘correspondence to reality’’ need[s] to be invoked to clarify ‘‘true’’ or ‘‘knowledge’’. They hunt in the terrain which they previously prohibited and declared out of bounds. In other words.40 Rorty accuses Nietzsche and the ‘bad’ Derrida of poaching. . Rorty’s most elaborate attempt to defend himself against the charge of inconsistency is to be found in his review of Geoffrey Bennington’s ‘Derridabase’ – the essay floating above Derrida’s ‘Circumfession’. The critique of ‘transcendental discourse in the name of the concrete realities of life’ would be unconsciously Kantian because. they institute it. In an earlier essay.

they only explained the causal conditions of the word ‘transcendence’. it is a way of repeating with Kierkegaard that the inventor of the Absolute Spirit is a poor existing individual. It is weak since one cannot put finitude in a transcendental position with respect to transcendence for ‘there is no such thing as transcendence’. by the way. ‘well. Rorty wonders if being nominalist or historicist like Feuerbach.Derrida. Thus. what is their cause or their condition. similar to all other words. This is just a way of reciting the argument that Feuerbach used against ‘God’. atheism is your religion’. the same charge that Rorty himself has been directing against Derrida. it is not clear . note 11). after having affirmed that any account of a fact is ‘just’ performance. he tries to escape from Kant by going back to Hume. 347). From the very beginning of his philosophical career – let us think for example of his 1971 ‘Transcendental argument.’ 44 Rorty admits to having argued that ‘transcendence’. self-reference. then we should stop annoying pragmatists with the accusation of being just lame philosophers (p. then. If Marx was right to be exasperated by people saying to the atheists. It is dangerous since it risks reintroducing the belief in a transcendental science which could grasp the unconscious presuppositions of all other discourses. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 65 In ‘Derrida and the philosophical tradition’ Rorty argues that Bennington’s accusation of transcendental contraband – which is. It changes the topic of the conversation. or with Judy Garland that the wizard of Oz is neither a wizard nor a superman but just ‘a nerd with a gimmick’ (p. Rorty has always tried to avoid inconsistencies by claiming that pragmatism does not look for what is behind representations. Nietzsche and others – is both dangerous and weak. What one can do is ‘putting the finite in a casual position with respect to the invention and use of the word ‘‘transcendence’’. those philosophers did not offer conditions for the possibility of transcendence. Even better. Pragmatism stops taking seriously the quest for truth. but for what has caused the word ‘transcendence’. His selfdefence in ‘Derrida and the philosophical tradition’ is therefore both surprising and puzzling since such an account of pragmatism is quite different from the one he usually gives of it. Dewey and Davidson means belonging to the transcendental gang: do all of them push transcendence without realizing it? In Rorty’s opinion. Kierkegaard. and pragmatism’ – Rorty himself has sanctioned the sceptic attack against philosophy as self-refuting. It does not argue but multiplies the rhetorical questions to undermine the confidence in the transcendental presupposition. However. Basically. Derrida and Bennington are not the only ones who consider the move from the non-causal transcendental arguments to causal empiricist explanations afflicted by ‘the worst contradictions’. Heidegger. is a human invention conceived to realize determinate goals. Rorty looks not for what has made transcendence possible. 335.

they ‘can only replace in the final instance something which will play the part of philosophy without having the means to do so’ (p.47 To mark ideas with a date and a place does not coincide with reducing texts and theories to mere effects of such a date and a place. if I am not mistaken. But. Rorty clearly goes for sociological explanations of philosophy. that philosophy is always occasioned and occasional. factual ego. While attempting to criticize deadly transcendental discourse in name of the . Are events really something actual? Are they something at all? And most importantly: can Rorty reintroduce the reference to the origins of certain language games without also betraying the refusal of the dualism between beings and representations? As Charles Guignon and David Harley might suggest: ‘the whole notion of objects and their causal powers existing distinct from and independent of our ways of speaking and giving reasons should be ruled out by Rorty’s position.’45 In the introduction to Consequences of Pragmatism. Rorty insists that pragmatists are with regards to transcendental argument in the same position that nineteenth-century secularists were with regards to God: it is less a matter of whether God and transcendence exist as facts or as products of human mind. somebody who thinks about certain things in certain ways because of certain weird. emphasis added). nor that philosophical concepts are the result of some odd episodes in childhood or of uncommon form of obsessional neurosis. as Bennington would call them. the uses of certain words in certain ways. says Bennington in ‘Derridabase’. he never suggests that one thinks in certain ways about certain things ‘because of’ the contingencies of private life that one happened to experience. Contaminating philosophy with what has always been considered its ‘other’ does not equate to circumventing philosophy. Alternatively. 334. (p. psychology. All the attempts to unsettle philosophy from some regional domain (sociology.66 The Domestication of Derrida how Rorty can approve Dewey’s ‘empirical inquires into the causal conditions of certain actual events – namely. 347) It is true that Derrida highlights the fact that the philosopher is always an empirical.46 This is how Rorty comments on ‘Circumfession’: The effect of ‘Circumfession’ is to rub one’s nose in the fact that all the quasi-transcendental. or economy for instance) are as self-contradictory as scepticism because. the origins of certain terms around which certain social practices crystallized’ (p. 283). in ‘Derrida and the philosophical tradition’. than about finding the means to avoid the vocabulary of theology and philosophy. rigorous philosophizing that Bennington describes is being done by a poor existing individual. while embracing Feuerbach and Dewey’s positions. private contingencies.

In ‘Trotsky and the wild orchids’ – an essay from his Philosophy and Social Hope which I will discuss at length in the next chapter – Rorty treats his own childhood passions as the unquestioned cause of his entire philosophical position. states that deconstruction’s first interest relies on the critique of the axiom of purity. By contrast. In fact. that is. 73). (p. Transphilosophical concepts would be transformed into philosophical naı ¨vite ´s’. 61). 71). Hence. The paths followed in the attempt to write a ‘genealogy of what did not happen’ were surely influenced by Derrida’s Judeo-French-Maghrebian background (p.Derrida. Derrida. To put it even more directly: they reinforce the authority of philosophical conceptuality. one is doomed to transform ‘the alleged transgression of philosophy into an unnoticed fault within the philosophical realm. The book does not expose Derrida. 46) While Rorty tries to shed himself of all the philosophical veils in order to rip the curtain aside and grasp the reality beyond it. In the epilogue of Monolingualism. it is a gesture which is . the particular and the general. it gives an account of the obstacles preventing auto-exposition. Tracing the traces of the phantasmatic events of his childhood. giving an account of oneself is never a private act. Derrida more cautiously affirms that the re ´ cit produces the memory of something that perhaps never was. Derrida unequivocally states in fact that the book should not be considered as the beginning of a future autobiography. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 67 living reality of life.48 The different value that Derrida and Rorty attribute to ‘real’ life clearly emerges if one confronts Derrida’s ‘autobiographical’ writings to Rorty’s. or toward the analytical decomposition of a purification that would lead back to the indecomposable simplicity of the origin. But the account of his individual journey can exist only within the bounds of the philosophical language and culture into which he came to be exiled (p. The ultimate unveiling cannot take place so ‘the truth of what I have lived: the truth itself beyond memory’ is always to come (p. Empiricism would be the genus of which these faults would always be the species. The reduction of philosophy is reduced once again to philosophy. they only confirm the power of the distinction between actual phenomena and transcendental laws. an ‘as if’ history is produced. The history he tells has never happened ‘as such’. between the conceptualization that belongs to the philosophical discourse and that of other logoi. without an account of the structural bond between philosopheme and theorem. the conditioned and the unconditional. On the contrary. the critique of the presumed existence of something like a simple and pure origin: the first impulse of what is called ‘deconstruction’ carries it toward this ‘critique’ of the phantasm of the axiom of purity. in the Monolingualism.

50 In his review of Foucault’s The History of Madness. (p. As Foucault puts it. He aims to write a history of madness itself. Derrida underscores that Foucault’s project is to evade the force which would trap any writing about madness in the policing language of reason. Derrida’s genealogy does not lead to the discovery of his original self. in the adventure of Western reason – all this is the immense delegation of the project defined by Foucault under the rubric of capture or objectification of madness. to hear its scream before it got silenced in the discourses that were produced around it. and no one among those who speak it.52 In his address. the language of everything that has participated. This seminar in particular. audacious and maddest aspect in Foucault. Laden with euphoria.49 But such recognition – and Derrida notes this with a force hardly found in Foucault – cannot avoid the ‘veils’ weaved by metaphysics. According to Derrida. can escape the historical guilt – if there is one. Nothing within this language. All our European languages. and if it is historical in a classical sense – which Foucault apparently wishes to put on trial. at the first Ce ´risy-la-Salle encounter dedicated to his work. contemporary with ‘Envois’.51 Derrida gave this lecture.68 The Domestication of Derrida always haunted by the spectres of philosophical conceptuality. they announce that it will not be too long before the liberating disappearance of philosophy from the world. His will to ‘bypass reason’ – to ‘contourner la raison’ in Derrida’s French – is as uneasy as Rorty’s determination to circumvent metaphysics. from near or far. organized by JeanLuc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. the obstinate determination to avoid the ambush of the restraining and restrained language of reason. already affirmed in 1963 (maybe for the very first time) the impossibility of purely bypassing philosophy. But such a trial may be impossible. A similar point was made in 1980 in ‘On a newly arisen apocalyptic tone in philosophy’. to who he was before philosophy and who he could be after it. for by the simple fact of their articulation the proceedings and the verdict unceasingly reiterate the crime. a book ‘admirable in so many respects. Foucault does not want to write the history of madness caught in the nets of classical reason. Such discourses want us to . powerful in its breadth and style’ (p. is at once the most seductive. an essay introduced by Foucault’s announcement that the end of man was perhaps near. 35) The case against metaphysics that Foucault prepares for trial appears as brave as unwary. the effect of genealogy is to recognize the fact that countless spirits dispute the possession over our own selves. Derrida reflected upon the tonality of the verdicts on philosophy’s end. 31). was to start with ‘The ends of man’. It is precisely in discussing Foucault’s enterprise that Derrida.

He who believes to be truthful dwells in the apocalypse. preached the death of philosophy in the name of some kind of a supernatural revelation. His progressivism. in a very lofty tone. Any discourse around and about the end shares the apocalyptic structure of philosophy. literally. freed another wave of eschatological discourses in philosophy. And every turn of discourse launches itself into a surplus of eschatological eloquence (p. his belief in the future of a certain philosophy. while the other discourses around the end seem euphoric for thinking that they succeeded in the projected murder. which longs to bury philosophy. The tone of truth would thus always be apocalyptic. indeed of another metaphysics. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 69 believe that the end of the old world and a new beginning are near. indeed the end of a certain type of metaphysics. and for this reason. in marking a limit. (pp. whose 1796 ‘On a newly arisen superior tone in philosophy’ attacked those who. Derrida discusses the example of Kant. Derrida urges to take note of the fact that ‘an apocalyptic tone’ is not something which newly emerges sometime and somewhere in philosophy.’53 Yet. It is even a prominent accomplice to such an event: ‘We are the worst criminals in history. Philosophy has always wanted to be the apocalypse since the very structure of its argumentation is organized by the desire for revelation. The apocalyptic tone does not happen to philosophy. he has himself. The veils will fall and the real world will expose itself. 145). 144–5) The pragmatist trust in a post-philosophical future has the same structure which Derrida demystifies in Kant’s progressivism. Surely deconstruction participates in the closing of metaphysics. But if Kant denounces those who proclaim that philosophy has been at an end for two thousand years. participates in its desires. for philosophy as such has always existed only in the horizon of the apocalypse. of unveiling. Every philosopher has in fact always aspired to be the last one – that is the first. The ironist will expose metaphysics as incapable of apokaluptein. he will recognize its limits and the metaphors which sign its body. the one who eludes the influence of worn-out metaphors and succeeds in putting an end to the philosophical nonsense. that the coming of a world not mystified by philosophy’s grey fable is imminent. is not contradictory to this proclamation of ends and of the end.Derrida. also exhumes it. since the truth stands for the end. Only then will philosophy flourish as the very human and endless conversation that has always been. This is also what . Eschatology seems to be the Stimmung shared by the different variations on the theme ‘the death of philosophy’. Derrida’s position is more cautious and less optimistic. Derrida indicates that the apocalyptic craving. for what comes after the final judgement.

Moreover. There are different ways of being caught in the circle of metaphysics. save. of Kant and Hegel. you. Pointing out the closure in which philosophy is setting implies affirming that one sees the limit of the light of a given logic structure. exactly when the funeral knell starts counting the hours of Platonism. and Solidarity). believe that the age of truth and representation has come to an end. it is easy to grasp Derrida’s distinction between closure and end. more or less conscious. and play’ states. To kill philosophy. During the funeral he organizes for philosophy. of each auto-da-fe ´). including Rorty’s. even if crossed out or in quotation marks. . In this consists ‘the discord. ‘[t]he quality and fecundity of a discourse are perhaps measured by the critical rigor with which this relation to the history of metaphysics and to inherited concepts is thought’ (p.’54 In this context. save you run away [sauve-toi]. regain consciousness. But the desires and gestures it produces perhaps cannot. As Derrida’s ‘Structure.70 The Domestication of Derrida happens in Rorty.55 The passage beyond is at once promised. Derrida does not try to equalize the different modalities of participating in philosophy’s guilt. one has to protest the authority of philosophical terminology while using it. the remains of what he thought had deceased. the unique. ‘Envois’ or Monolingualism of the Other do not find their poignancy – as Rorty believes – in their overcoming of metaphysics. The discourses which claim that the present is the time after philosophy (La filosofia dopo la filosofia is the Italian title for Rorty’s Contingency. continues to shape all our experiences. They do not pass away. He aims to emphasize that any attempt to contest the language of tradition and open a future independent from it needs to begin by first recognizing the complicity with such a language. 282). Without the philosophical axiomatic. more or less productive. it would be impossible for us to think at all. awaited and banned. the ivory authority of metaphysics is not left untouched. be transcended. the drama between us: not to know whether we are to continue living together (think of the innumerable times of our separation. but its vocabulary. disappeared. ‘at least in the present’. the living one over there whom I love. from the casket where he deposited them. Irony. On the contrary. For this reason. is at the same time to preserve it from disappearing: ‘And right here I kill you. all the talking about the end of metaphysics seems to be the sign that such enterprise is not as dead as one imagines. whether we can live with or without the other’.56 In fact. but rather in their impossible step beyond it. and is now dead and buried. Once philosophical texts have been read in a certain manner. sign. obsessed by the desire of privacy. ways that are more or less ingenuous. metaphysics must be full of vitality if it is still able to produce so many attempted disposals. in order to enlarge the crevice through which one glances at the glimmer of the beyond-closure. save.

it is exactly thought’s present weariness that allows for the reactivation of its past and. I tried to bring Rorty closer to Husserl. According to Husserl. the one must help the other in an interplay. with it. of a renovated future. the tradition in which we live. one cannot see the passage which would wriggle out of the fix. There is no safe exit. no easy escape. easiness. ironic and solidaire epoch of post-philosophical democracy. Rorty’s euphoria – euphoria that is not alien to a certain Foucault – is caused by the persuasion of having found the right way of turning the page on metaphysics and of accessing the contingent. But Husserl’s move is marked by a certain ambiguity: while claiming the reactivation of the origin of theoretical concepts (their non-theoretical origin). Thus we have no other choice than to proceed forward and backward in a zigzag pattern. philosophy has to react against the crisis that torments it by reaffirming the necessity of a transcendental reflection and by avoiding the sirens of scepticism. This is exactly the opposite of the aporia that organizes the pace of Derrida’s work. But in the absence of an understanding of the beginnings the development is mute as a development of meaning. and it indicates the possibility to overcome smoothly an awkward situation. But. Thinking needs to be rescued from the critical situation in which it lies. Instead.58 The origins ‘as such’ – in my argument. If one is in an aporia.Derrida. Thus we find ourselves in a sort of circle. he assumes that one can create. Yet at the same time. a vocabulary capable of circumventing metaphysics and reaching an autonomous time before and beyond it. without too many difficulties. the contingent and untheoretical premisses of theory – will remain concealed because they can only be mediated to us by our actual mode of reflection. Rorty believes that to recall the sensible origin of every theoretical concept is the post-philosophical move which would allows us to be finished with the traditional order of discourse. paradoxically. by our present language. at the beginning of this chapter. It is strange.57 As Gasche ´ suggests: Husserl’s method of dismantling enables a retrogression to something ‘that cannot in principle be given as such’. One is at an impasse. . the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 71 For example. Husserl was perfectly aware that ‘life-world’ is a philosophical concept and that only philosophy can think the nonphilosophical origin of sciences and philosophy itself. absence of doubt. Rorty does not hesitate calling himself ‘ethnocentric’ on the grounds of the belief that it is radically impossible to abandon the language we speak. Euphoria in Greek means easy solution. Husserl also affirms that the meaning of the life-world can be grasped only by the ‘we’ that we are today. However. looking back at its development. the path is a dead end. The understanding of the beginnings is to be gained fully only by starting with science as given in its present-day form.

It is not the case that a therapeutic silence steps up at the end of the Tractatus Philosophicus as the consequences of the demystification of philosophical meaningless propositions. Yet. So either they stop using the language of philosophy and prove that one can do well without it. suggests that everybody – everybody else maybe – should let the ladder go. The track is not beaten. . or they prove that philosophy cannot make the points it wants to make. For example. Wittgenstein did not hesitate to put the ladder away when he was convinced that he was done with it. one is stuck in a Holzweg. trying to make an impossible step toward something other than metaphysics. in ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. he affirms that ‘we may (as Foucault put it) be doomed to find Hegel waiting patiently at the end of whatever road we travel (even if we walk backwards)’. the consequences of pragmatism are anything but quiet. in the introduction to Consequences of Pragmatism.59 Yet. From Derrida’s perspective. Frederic Jameson is surely right in affirming that Rorty’s project is far more radical than Derrida’s in his attempt to destroy ‘philosophy itself as a history and a discipline’. pragmatists need to rely on assumptions drawn from the philosophical tradition. In order to do the latter.72 The Domestication of Derrida One keeps walking up and down. Rorty himself is too well read to be unaware of the difficulties in taking the step beyond. he tries to shoulder away the question by affirming that Derrida’s treatment of the literary genre called philosophy eventually has allowed us to forget about it. it is not easy to find the therapy that would allow the realities of life to rise and the nonsense of metaphysics to set. he set it aside once he thought he reached the point where he wanted to be. The problem that pragmatists face consists in the need to make anti-philosophical points in a non-philosophical language. on the other hand. The point is made. Rather. and at the same time. keeps climbing up and down. or stating it. The aporia that no eu-phoros – no good passage – can avoid is determined by the fact that all the steps that seem to be the best in overcoming the aporia throw us back again into the depths of the regime which we were trying to get rid of. Even the fact that he himself has been saying for thirty years that he is done with philosophy should be taken as the symptom that it is not so easy – or convenient61 – for him to let go of philosophy. The choice is thus between reaching the conclusion.60 But I doubt that Rorty can effectively destroy philosophy without also reinforcing the effects of its sovereignty and dignity. It is true that Rorty approvingly and often alludes to the ladder thrown away at the conclusion of the Tractatus. It is impossible to do both. it is impossible to proceed along it since the obstacles encountered are ‘impassable’. As Heidegger might have said. in slightly different terms. instead of lingering on the ‘dangers’ connected with the circumvention of philosophy. Rorty.

He concludes that maybe non-Jewish kids who go to school in exotic places like California or Indonesia. Reading Bennington’s account of Derrida has increased his ‘tolerance’ for deconstruction and made him finally realize that I cannot get away with my stance of tough-minded. One would hope that Rorty would expand on the passage I discussed above from the introduction of Consequences of Pragmatism – ‘It is impossible for the pragmatist to state the conclusion he wants to reach’ – and admit that once philosophy has been defined as the activity grounded on the transcendental presupposition. 349) But this whispered confession does not lead Rorty to a general revision of his privatization of deconstruction. he sort of forgives Derrida for not being able to forget Plato and Kant after reading them. With a sympathetic attitude.63 Not James. Rorty counts Derrida as a useful but suspicious ally. Not Dewey. some kind of a half-way pragmatist ‘having deconstructed a great deal of surplus ontological baggage but then fallen victim to the lure of his own negative metaphysics or systematized anti-philosophy’. (p. Not even the founding fathers of pragmatism. Certainly not . One would expect at this point a sincere analysis of the limits of pragmatism and its complicity with metaphysics. Again. according to Rorty. as Christopher Norris noted. Rorty reduces the impossibility of overcoming the philosophical order as a idiosyncratic and personal matter. Derrida cannot. the one that tells you that it just isn’t logical to treat one thing as if it were something else and that it just isn’t rational not to try to figure out which is the allegory and which the allegorized. but Derrida cannot. who is a true pragmatist? No one. Far from acknowledging that every argument structurally produces a little apocalypse. In fact.62 The point is that no one so far has been capable of being pragmatist and a-transcendental all the way. then it is impossible to produce a discourse which would not participate in such presupposition.Derrida. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 73 At the end of ‘Derrida and the philosophical tradition’. The truth is that. who unfortunately did not confine himself to declaring the quest for a successful theory of truth as hopeless. on the belief that some discourses genuinely refer to reality. hypostatization-bashing empiricism without falling a bit too much under the sway of the metaphysical logos. places where few have ever heard of Plato and Kant. but had moments in which he – as Nietzsche – tried to infer what the truth consists of. he makes it sound as if it were Derrida’s fault for not having been able to circumvent philosophy. can forget about philosophy and metaphysics. since he fell victim to the seduction of radical empiricism and panpsychism. Rorty comes close to admitting that all his ‘expostulations’ against philosophy are a ‘little too metaphysical’. Rorty changes the topic and puts Derrida under the spotlight. Instead.

The Disposal of Philosophy L’e ´ rection tombe.66 It would be (too) easy to say that Rorty finds inadequate all the other critics of the metaphysical tradition in order to be recognized as the first true and authentic pragmatist/ironist. It does not therefore seem legitimate to claim that there is a first and a second Derrida. while the sections of the Philosophical Investigations dedicated to metaphilosophy are unfortunate left-overs from Wittgenstein’s early positivistic period. I have shown that both ‘White mythology’ and Monolingualism of the Other. ‘Derridabase’) Maybe I have not been generous enough with Rorty. the apparently more transcendental and the apparently more autobiographical ones. His treatment of Derrida in fact shows how Rorty tries to reduce Derrida’s philosophical positions to mere effects of Derrida’s ‘physical’ life. (Geoffrey Bennington. It would have been better to have said that he was going to offer the skeptic a way of speaking which would prevent him from asking his question.64 And surely not Wittgenstein: the conclusion of the Tractatus – even if Rorty borrows its parable of the ladder – is an undigested residue of Schopenhauer.65 Who is left? Davidson? Almost. of breaking up with metaphysics and theory. Against his reading. that a Kehre intervened and modified the trajectory of his . One might be tempted to describe Rorty’s pragmatism as a sort of reductive vitalism for he assumes private life to be the causal origin of any given theory. Rorty has never stepped away from physicalism. than to say that he was going to answer that question. Yet.67 I hope to have demonstrated that in a certain sense. following different discursive strategies. testify to the incapacity of getting philosophy out of one’s mind. Davidson was a bit misleading in suggesting that he was going to show us how coherence yields correspondence. I have suggested that a solid continuity binds Derrida’s early and latter works. He was therefore only half-way on the path of the destruction of the epistemological debates. For instance. In his imaginary debates with the sceptic. he arrives at the point of admitting that he sounded too much like Carnap in the denounce of the pseudo-problems provoked by unreal philosophical distinctions and in the fervent physicalism of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.74 The Domestication of Derrida Pierce whose definition of reality as that which remains at the end of inquiry is ‘fishy’ because we have no idea what it would be for inquiry to have an end.

his production might look pretty ‘monotonous’.68 Pragmatism is most effective when it talks not about ‘what is’. Starting from Derrida’s analysis and Bennington’s remarkable exposition of the law of the transcendental contraband. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 75 work. Rorty at his best would defend his reading of deconstruction. On the contrary. denying that he has ever wanted to show what Derrida is really all about. As Heidegger argued when discussing the idealistic interpretation of Nietzsche’s will to power. a doing rather than a showing – is it enough to bypass the transcendental presupposition? A pure performative.69 The commerce that deals with pragmata is not blind but has its own insights insofar as the determining ground. Action is possible only because the will represents that which is willed in the willing. which means that any performance is at the same time a theorein. every practice is in fact always accompanied by representations. And already in Aristotle’s De Anima. an action not grounded on an implicit constative. surely less generous than he has been with deconstruction in stressing its force toward the imminent circumvention of philosophy. The ironist does not pretend to observe or show anything. his discourses have a performative aim. not a constative one. The desire that originates a . What makes Rorty – to use Dennet’s Lexicon – ‘incorrigible’. Unveiling secrets is something which Gasche ´ might claim to be doing. After all. willing is structurally representing. is as impossible as a pragmatism uncontaminated by the structure of transcendental arguments. Rorty is trying to make from Derrida a device powerful enough to exhaust metaphysics. When he tries to answer his critics. in such a way that what is represented as willed is determinant for the action itself. Rorty becomes an ‘easy target’. can be found only in the will. This is why Kant affirms that the will is the faculty of desire which works in accordance with concepts. when he starts looking for causal origins. But maybe I have been too stingy with Rorty. A true pragmatist – and actually we saw there are none – would claim that his only intention is to sneak some arguments into the philosophical scene to make it easier for philosophy to leave its myths behind.Derrida. can you? Nonetheless. affirming that the chosen vocabulary or reading is the most suited for reaching given goals – that it is a performance. the arche ´ of proceeding practically. is his ability to hijack the discussion away from philosophy. I have pointed to the inconsistencies in Rorty’s dismissal of philosophy as a grey and sad fable that has forgotten its constitutive contingency. You cannot argue against a premonition. but about what might be in the future. but it is certainly not for a pragmatist. always stating the necessity for philosophy to be contaminated by something other than itself – such ‘other’ being natural language or life – promising an absolute elsewhere while highlighting the inevitability for ‘the now’ to call forth its other and its elsewhere in the language of philosophy. that is to say.

and that it is useful to think of the truth in such a way. the reality of consent and convention. as something that should not have and could not have happened. Rorty’s attempt brutally to change terrain appears only as pseudo-euphoria. it is unclear what such an announcement states or promises.76 The Domestication of Derrida performance is the representation of a fact. The problem is that this frenzy for a pure and autonomous non-metaphysical discourse is precisely what holds Rorty captive to the tradition which he announces to have shut down. no more unmasking. nevertheless implies the necessity of referring to realia – in this case. a practice has its end in the actual transformation of reality so it would be impossible for the action to have an end if whatever position of reality is to be avoided. it makes us dwell at the centre of the land we wanted to desert. his arguments lack any serious consideration of the structural impossibility for pragmatism to simply step away from theory. Since every action is moved by will – and this does not imply that every action is conscious but only that every action is determined by a desire – but since no will or desire can exist independently from representations. willing or not. the unmasking gestures of metaphysics. of reflecting upon the situation and the context in which one is situated. Davidson and Derrida. there would be no motive to act or to refrain from acting. Rorty treats it as a mere mistake. How can one recognize the achievement of a goal without claiming to mirror the reality of a situation? How might one justify a decision to act if one cannot support such a decision with any fact? The exile from the will to represent would make acting itself meaningless and arbitrary since no reason would be given for its opportunity or legitimacy.’71 Yet. while he proudly promises a way out of the history of philosophy. no performative can avoid being accompanied by a constative. The outside turned out to be more inside than the inside itself. himself and Nietzsche). To say that the truth is what a given community believes to be true. It is not the case that Derrida speaks of ‘pragrammatology’ rather than of pragmatism: the decision to act or not is always bound to the necessity (and the limits) of calculating. because while it declares that it leads us beyond the metaphors of insight and mirroring. All the blind spots and inconsistencies that I am charging Rorty with are induced by the fact that. a reality. and the reality of utility. Every time he notices a transcendental tone in ‘anti-transcendental’ philosophers (Dewey and Heidegger. consciously or not. the after we were so anxious to access was merely the restoration of the present. Moreover. 70 Rorty proclaims: ‘No more metaphysics. without the representation of a state of things. Every discourse that claims to have ended the mirroring referentiality of the transcendental presupposition – the belief that not all discourses or practices are arbitrary since some are grounded on ‘raw facts’ as things themselves – indeed heavily relies on it. . since even pragmatism ends up repeating.

However. let me briefly recall what happens in the beginning of Husserl’s 1913 Ideas I. the perceived beings might have happened elsewhere. Husserl writes: Consequently it is certain that no essential intuition is possible without the free possibility of directing one’s glance to an individual counterpart and of shaping an illustration. to the possibility for the thing of being different from how it is. In this way. Notably. one being the condition of possibility of the other. the representation of what is proper to it. The objects of possible experience are essentially contingent. gives to consciousness objects as beings which exist individually and spatiotemporally.Derrida. they can vary without producing a mutation in the object’s own essence. a jargon uncontaminated by empirical experience. In fact. for Husserl. (p. having a temporal and spatial collocation as well as a peculiar physical shape. perception.. one raises from empirical natural cognition to the vision of essences.72 In what was intended as a general introduction to phenomenology. i. It is a matter of transforming the sensory intuition of something individual into an insight of what is essential to that particular object. yet in order to accomplish this goal. 47). The idea – ‘Eidos’ in Husserl’s phenomenological translation of Plato – is the image that delimits the individual object’s idion. In particular. 50) . The contingency of the individual must be overcome in the determination of the object’s necessities. Husserl’s project is to let the very properties of things shine. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 77 As a typical example of how metaphysics – if something like a metaphysics indeed exists – has always proceeded. in the third paragraph of the first book of Ideas I – ‘Essential insight and individual intuition’ in W. just as contrariwise no individual intuition is possible without the free possibility of carrying out an act of ideation and therein directing one’s glance upon the corresponding essence which exemplifies itself in something individually visible. the grasping of essences is grounded on what is given in the intuition of something individual.e. The level of idiomaticity is reached through the work of ideation. but essentially it could be other than it is’ (p. Husserl starts noticing that empirical experience. Husserl thus concludes that every kind of individual being is contingent: ‘It is so-and-so. the totality of what is perceived in an individual being does not properly belong to such being. An object can be otherwise and still be that object as long as its structural core is left untouched. otherwise and in another time. not all the object’s characteristics might vary: the predicates which necessarily belong to the thing set insurmountable limits to contingency – that is. It is clear that. R. Boyce Gibson’s translation – Husserl affirms that the perception of what is contingent and the insight of what is essential are structurally intertwined. he needs the phenomenological language to be a pure idiom. but the individual is meaningful only insofar as it appears as the specific materialization of an idea.

It is more complex than that. Husserl admits that both kinds of intuition – the one perceiving an object in its contingent existence and the other grasping it in its necessary essence – are required for the constitution of a valid account of the object itself. How could the empirical be the ground of transcendental idiom without at the same time compromising the status of the transcendental itself? In order to avoid the degrading contamination of essential insight with the existential insight. One does not need to rely on the data of perception to reach the eidetic space since. ‘whether such things have ever been given in actual experience or not’. we can imagine hearing a melody. one should conclude that phenomenology is always in crisis because its system to function properly needs that which forbids it to function autonomously. intuitions that do not apprehend sensory existence. they appear so for a blink of an eye. they are also intrinsically bound to one another. Husserl revokes the co-implication previously introduced. Or.78 The Domestication of Derrida The two genres of cognition are surely different in principle. Husserl must dismiss natural insight as unnecessary for the process of ideation. It would be a problem for phenomenology to admit that the impure world of natural cognitions is the condition of phenomenological knowledge. at least. But if the naivety of natural cognition is a key component in essential insight. Yet immediately after concluding the paragraph by suggesting the necessary link between the transcendental and the empirical. The ideological burden that phenomenology cannot escape is provoked by its relieving belief that the spectres of . Husserl has to admit that. Husserl is forced to take shelter in the purely fantastic world of eidetic variation. having experiences and. It appears that factual perception is as essential for the intuition of an idea as the eidetic intuition is indispensable for the understanding of a fact. thanks to ideation. grasp the essences of the simulated phenomena. In such a way. It is not necessary to base the process of ideation upon the impure flow of factual experience since it is possible to utilize also ‘non-empirical intuitions. 51). perceiving bodies. at the same time. One is in fact able to know essences whose existence was never experienced. that is. the theatre of conscience produces – without any contact with the realm of the empirical and the existential – the truth of ideas: the non-truth of fiction is responsible for the truth of phenomenology. the non-phenomenological insight is a pharmakon. Phenomenology does not simply reject natural insight and the naive vocabulary derived from it. in order to constitute adequate essential intuitions. Just like writing in Plato’s Phaedro. But. one must exploit that which is foreign to eidetic idiom. and that which must be immediately banned in order to hide the instability of the eidetic. at once a vital constituent and deadly poison. natural cognition. It is that which allows the institution of the realm of idealities. intuition rather ‘‘of a merely imaginative order’’ ’ (p. To begin with. but in principle. in our imagination.

there must be. it needs to get rid of it. Husserl first states that the insight of that which exists is necessary to essential insight. and then backs away from the consequences of his statement. (p. He needs to think of philosophy as something alien to pragmatism. As Derrida comments in ‘Plato’s pharmacy’: The purity of the inside home against exteriority essence. then the transcendental is not a noise that happens to pragmatism nor a noise that it can avoid. Pragmatism is always more or less than what it wants to be because it needs philosophy to . because he would otherwise not have any means of attacking the legitimacy of the transcendental presupposition itself.Derrida. Eidetic variation needs to labour the empirical data. no pure pragmatism can exists. Nonetheless. On the other hand. Without an originary relation with the natural world. If transcendental arguments are as crucial for the existence of pragmatism as the banality of natural insight is a key component for phenomenology. a surplus that untouched plenitude of can then only be restored if the charges are brought as a supplement. there would be no pragmatism whatsoever. Without philosophy. For such reason. something that can be circumvented and put aside because it is of little use. inessential yet harmful to the ought never to have come to be added to the the inside. Rorty does not want to have anything to do with philosophy and its concepts. fancy would not have at its disposal the raw material necessary to start the process of eidetic variation. imagination is still haunted by natural cognition.’73 There is. in order to be a pure phenomenology. On the one hand. through the refuge into fancy. The phenomenological system tries to constitute its stability by expelling from its body. 128) Phenomenology needs natural cognition but at the same time. He needs philosophy to argue against itself in order to promote the awareness of the contingency on which all philosophical systems are erected. The logos as reassurance stands against the terror provoked by the bogeyman. the black man. In Ideas I. otherwise it would impossible for him to claim that he has bypassed philosophical tradition. The exact same thing happens in Rorty’s pragmatism. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 79 contingency and existence will quietly rest segregated outside the city walls once their services are no longer needed inside. Rorty has a desperate need for transcendental arguments. ‘Philosophy consists of offering reassurance to children. for all the tricks of philosophical tradition. and thus the spectres of the empirical will have always and already infected the work of ideation. the third paragraph is sacrificed by the fourth. the contamination of what it ought not need. the adumbration which might disturb the white domain of the transcendental. Yet with philosophy. an insight not haunted and stained by naivety.

or the capacity-to-be-responsible.78 Rorty cannot not know it. and even any determined law at all) on this side of any subjectivity. any fault. of any existing being. philosophy disappears once irony has been installed.75 Instead of admitting that pragmatism needs transcendental philosophy. For phenomenology as for pragmatism. Or at least. Rorty thinks he can do better than Husserl. any knowledge. any relation to the object. it is a matter of hiding the conditions for the possibilities of their own tricks: the ontic is made to disappear once the ontological has been reached. but then.77 As Derrida unmistakably states in the second part of The Post Card: The existential analytic of Dasein situates the structure of originary Schuldigsein (Being-responsible. the ironist against he. he declares the possibility of reaching essences without passing through individual perceptions. he needs to forget about it. ‘heteronomy’ – is not something that happens and thus might be avoided: it is the constitutive infrastructure of every language.76 Clinging onto a Romantic metaphysics of the subject. In this impossible attempt to break away from the structure and the logic of transcendental arguments. Rorty claims that philosophy must be forgotten as soon as one is done using it to overstep the stories of metaphysics. Pragmatism dreams of a time and a language that would have ended their dependence on all that philosophy has ever stood for. Being-forewarned. he declines .74 it is this craving for autonomy which most distinguishes Rorty from Derrida. Rorty hopes it is possible to bag it for disposal. the metaphysician) is not enough to conceal the fact that his entire project of self-creation is nothing else than a hypermasculine attempt to erase the debt that binds every language to the other. and above all any consciousness. in the quick turning of a page. Rorty exploits philosophy to argue against the possibility of any type of transcendental deduction. For this very reason. but for this very reason. and therefore. Rorty winds up repeating Husserl’s moves.80 The Domestication of Derrida configure itself as the powerful argument that it is. In the same fashion. He thinks he can create a language which would avoid the influence of what has made it possible in the first place. the possibility of having to answer-for before any debt. Husserl first writes that natural insight and essential insight imply each other. at least as much as phenomenology needs contingency. and then tries to forget the very tradition which allowed him to perform his critique of metaphysics. He is so at ease in such an embarrassing situation. As John Caputo has argued in ‘On not circumventing the quasi-transcendental: the case of Rorty and Derrida’. Rorty insists on ignoring that the debt with the other. Rorty’s recourse to the feminine pronoun to talk about the ironist (she. the necessity of depending on the other – in one word. that one is the condition for the possibility of the other.

it almost seems that Rorty is not disappointed with Heidegger for having wanted to be too much. Freedom from tradition is understood by Rorty in light of the ascetic category of self-control. Derrida. no one has control over his own erection. But at the same time. 80 Reacting against the frenzy of constituting a pure and autonomous self which would not be upset by the spectres of passivity and heteronomy. let us remember Marx’s great declaration on Feuerbach. tried to demonstrate how all the attempts to construct a close and autarchic totality fail. What is in fact metaphysics if not the craving for an aseptic and immune self. Authenticity does not consist of opening up to the other. he needs in fact to master himself with unfailing skill and severity. he also argued that since erection is a reflex. the ground of manhood is a radical passivity which unworks any dream of absolute mastery and autonomy. would not let anything happen to himself because he is what makes things happen.Derrida. Should we not affirm that Rorty does as well a secondary thing because he contests the supremacy of external authorities in order to affirm the authenticity of his own laws? Rorty critiques Heidegger for having claimed that his theory was grounded on something bigger than himself. They fail. but for having settled on being too little: a thought which depends on something else than itself. The genre of active subject dreamt by Rorty. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 81 the debt with such a hurried assurance. but of creating one’s own system and avoiding dependency on whatever comes from the other. something automatic and independent from one’s will. in his respectful and inventive reading of philosophy’s great texts. Derrida showed the links between the figure of the phallus and that of the sovereign in the unpublished sessions of the seminar ‘The beast and the sovereign’. then why does Rorty keep repeating his long finished business with philosophy? Why should one forget about philosophy if one no longer has anything to do with it? Rorty’s anxiety of being influenced by philosophy is analogous to the metaphysical anguish of contamination. for a vital body which owes its existence to nothing else than itself? In this perspective. since . Yet. He who denies God’s existence does only a ‘secondary thing’. It is nothing different from the fear of the other who comes – or better. the West or History. Any given system is essentially self-deconstructing. who has always already come – to invade and destroy the possibility of a pure autos. Let us call this Europe.79 Unfortunately. since he denies God in order to put Man in God’s place. not because an external force intervenes to deconstruct an otherwise solid structure. rereading some passages and discreet footnotes. and sometimes by Foucault. To resist the temptation of acquiring traditional fixations. that one asks: if it is so obvious that the debts with transcendental philosophy have been cleared. as suggested by the Anti-Oedipus. such an imperturbable lightheartedness. is not autonomous enough for Rorty.

82 The Domestication of Derrida in order to be erected. it needs to be grounded on something which remains inassimilable. And vice versa. This is why Rorty’s reading of Derrida is inadequate by itself: the emphasis on Derrida’s anti-transcendental moves should always be accompanied by an analysis of his philosophical gestures. a pragmatic language which is not already and always contaminated by its other. that which is ‘higher than height’. indigestible. such transcendental questioning. he reports the tensions and the fissures. From Husserl in particular and from the other great figures of the history of philosophy. during the movement upward in search of conditions of possibility. Furthermore. ungovernable by the system itself. Derrida gets attuned to events already in place and actively accelerates fractures which would otherwise risk being overlooked. reading Husserl.82 It is hard to deny that there is . Rorty’s approach should be completed by Gasche ´’s patient reading. For example. one realizes that the very condition of transcendence. the possibility of everything that ironically makes wobble the serious claims of transcendental questioning. by the structure of transcendental arguments. Rather. Derrida shows that the edification of a purely transcendental idiom cannot succeed since the very condition of (im)possibility of the phenomenological ego is a passivity that no reduction can suspend. this very report is not just a passive report as Caputo almost suggests. The movement up is thus brought down to the plane of immanence. Rorty’s pragmatism cannot really be what he wishes it to be. As Caputo’s ‘On not circumventing the quasi-transcendental’ puts it: ‘Derrida does not ‘‘deconstruct’’ something by means of his facile and inventive capacity for redescription or recontextualization’ (p. 163). But at the same time. the underground conflict at work under the apparent perpetual peace of the philosophical. But for the very same reason. is empirical and contingent. Yet slipping back on contingency as the condition of possibility of transcendence. There is no pure contingent language. Rorty is not mistaken in pointing out two different tonalities in Derrida’s works: one playful and deconstructive. to be truly serious and not give in to any simplification. The serious elevation of transcendental philosophy falls because. denegated or sedated. But he is wrong in believing that one of these two sorts of noises might exist without the other. Derrida affirms having inherited ‘the necessity of posing transcendental questions in order not to be held within the fragility of an incompetent empiricist discourse’. positivism and psychologism.81 To avoid the naivety of empiricism. needs to take into account the possibility of accidentality and contingency. By saying yes and responding to the call of the distant roar of the battle rising from the field of philosophy. the other serious and transcendental. the unstable elevation is relaunched again. placing himself on the scene of a silent dispute. it is crucial for Derrida to renew transcendental questioning.

and the other one the stabilizing. uncertainties. The silliness of deconstruction is provoked by the fact that the movement against the possibility of producing a pure transcendental theory. It does not posit anything. reassures with assertory statements. as Rorty would say. thematics. with assertions. or simply stating jetty – in reference to the supplementary fact that at this moment of stasis. On the one hand. not since it is against theory or because it proclaims a theoretical asceticism. theories. spreads ‘a system. deconstruction is this or that. The resistance is formalized into a method. This is why deconstruction is at the same time two very different kinds of jetties – or tones. a fearful and trembling erection. Following Derrida’s ‘Some statements and truisms about neologisms. with statements such as ‘this is that’: for example.83 The destabilizing jetty resists the stabilizing one. both paradoxically and predictably. newisms. it loses the greatness and austerity of Heidegger’s. an organized totality not always and already worked by an underground seism. a . in an annoying Fort and Da? If Destiny (Geschick) keeps repeating itself. and principles. parasitisms. because it opposes the possibility of building a system. institutionalizing and protecting it from violent and new waves. The devastating jetty leaps against the possibility of stating a thesis without doubts. deconstructive attacks settle on producing a number of theorems. networks within the academic world which are in contrast with other theories. but rather. and blind points. a school with its teachable technical rules. On the other hand.Derrida. there is the jetty which throws itself forward and backwards without any intention of erecting. It just opposes the dreams of a pure transcendence not contaminated by contingency. and other small seismisms’. Is there not something ridiculous in being forced into this infinite movement up and down which constantly reminds us that the conditions for the possibility of a phenomenon make such a phenomenon impossible? Is it not ironic that the discipline we try to get rid of keeps coming back to our hands. still produces theory and theories. the stabilizing jetty proceeds by predicative clauses. a method. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 83 something comical in this movement. after ‘Envois’. of stanza. procedures. if it is parodized into destinies (envois). However. there is the movement which tries to produce a system. Deconstruction becomes deconstructionism. theses which come to shape the conceptual core of deconstructionism. hesitations. in its resistance to theory. It is banalized and vulgarized. It creates fortifications and outposts. let us call the first jetty the destabilizing jetty or even more artificially the devastating jetty. themes. stating or posing anything stable. The devastating jetty is institutionalized into the stabilizing one. establishing. The attempted elevation of metaphysics appears to be. a tragedy becomes a farce. postisms.

‘no longer simply belonged to the series. this it to say that Derrida is afraid that Gasche ´’s tone – which kills. 84).85 But. from sociology. a principle of dislocation’ (p. opposite risks also exist. is the stabilizing jetty. It cannot rise up without at the same time falling down. toppling down bridges to transcendence is also erecting new ones toward it. disorder. in the name of foreign and more sovereign powers. the one and only hypertranscendental critique (p. all of Derrida’s jokes84 – might give the idea that all deconstruction really is. Being marked by the empirical. as Caputo notes. The very use of the term infrastructure in relation to deconstruction is troubling and. Deconstruction is not a viral act of terrorism which. or irreducible turmoil – that is. in fact. not from ‘literature’. the ladder – as it happens for the transcendental – cannot be set aside. Derrida suggests that Gasche ´’s The Tain of the Mirror runs the risk of reconstituting the deconstructive jetty as a philosophy of deconstruction. 88). it should be avoided. is shaken by the jetty which dismantles the bridges trying to reach a transcendental height. As Derrida puts it: an element in the series of philosophical discourses. of course.84 The Domestication of Derrida discipline. The complicity and the contamination with the transcendental is. a supertheory. 89). Deconstruction’s scandal consists of suggesting that nothing is more . that it can or should speak only in a destabilizing pitch. although Derrida understands the strategic role that plays in Gasche ´’s argumentation. not from a Kuhnian redescription of their procedures. It is something nourished within the edifice of philosophy that has managed to favour the undermining of the discursive order in which it was raised. falls on the order of the philosophical. if not completely indissociable. history or psychology.86 For this reason. deconstruction. It amounts to thinking – as Rorty does – that deconstruction is only the destructive jetty. In this infinite limping is that quasi-transcendental tone which Derrida cannot and does not want to circumvent. However. Transcendence is taken down and reproduced: the erection falls. one has to remember that the two kinds of jetties or tones are interdependent and uneasy to dissociate. and falling down without at the same time rising up. and in the worst case an institution with its legitimating orthodoxy’ (p. It is rather a patient internal negotiation with the legacy of tradition – negotiation that. the time for the thesis. born in the very centre of the empire and using its logos. Deconstruction is the theory of theories. Yet the contrary is also true. The position of a proposition. needed to remark that a disorganization of the axiomatics of philosophy has been produced not by some regional discipline. with its infrastructures and its systematicity. deconstruction cannot be a serious ideological demystification. tries to provoke and suspend the laws of the home. In my understanding of the passage. and introduced into it an element of perturbation.

that is to say. if deconstruction really is this patient and paradoxical critique of philosophical conceptuality. But. the Transcendental and Theoretical Ascetism 85 philosophical than the demolition of philosophy itself. as Rorty does. . metaphysics to itself and silently reinforcing its sovereignty. As I will trace in the next chapter. instead of leaving. then we still have to understand why for Derrida it is crucial to work the fundamental axiomatics of tradition and eat away its authority.Derrida. by denying deconstruction any political or ethical relevance – the second kind of privacy he attributes to Derrida – Rorty fails to grasp the profound interests of Derrida’s experiment with thought. of its radical critique.


The circumvention of philosophy is in fact twofold. It is useful while ironists are playing with themselves. but also in accepting that the courses sailed around the shore of metaphysics will be only of interest for those severely infected by philosophical germs. And yet. It consists not only in the (impossible) abstinence from generality. it is necessary to go back to the moment in which Rorty realized that public duties and privates desires cannot be fulfilled by the same language. and to make them consistent with his own anti-Kantian layout. are looking for a make-over. for Foucault. a genealogy should not: des identite ´ s de rechange. but should be dropped when one is taking care of the needs of the people uninterested in self-recreation. Everything . it will be germane for those macho-metaphysicians – ironist theory is a male business even in Rorty’s use of the feminine pronoun – who.Chapter 3 The Resistance of Theory The Desires We Are. Nonetheless. the possibility of alternate identities. the sublime style that Rorty deduces from Derrida is not appropriate for every occasion. having learned from the fate of his predecessors that the public can never be more than beautiful. The project of overcoming tradition is doomed to remain totally irrelevant to anyone who is not involved with the axiomatics organizing the philosophical. after suffering from the anxiety of influence for so long. to use Foucault’s words. the confused and anonymous Western man ‘who no longer knows himself or what name he should adopt. beautiful and sublime. I take Derrida’s importance to lie in his having had the courage to give up the attempt to unite the private and the public. it is now time to analyse the second kind of privacy which Rorty assigns to deconstruction. to stop trying to bring together a quest for private autonomy and an attempt at public resonance and utility.2 In order better to understand Rorty’s attempt to work Kant’s distinctions between public and private. He privatizes the sublime. more individualized and substantial than his own’.1 Rorty uses Derrida’s work to supply exactly what. Derrida’s genealogies would provide. the Languages We Speak After having discussed in the previous chapter the anti-transcendental character praised in the ‘authentic’ Derrida.

a ‘fellow eight-year-old who had made good’. The University of Chicago College. Barely fifteen. the famous Italian anarchist gunned down on a New York sidewalk in 1943. Latin names and blooming seasons of the forty different species of wild orchids growing in New Jersey. In his 1992 autobiographical essay ‘Trotsky and the wild orchids’. whose parents had been branded as ‘Trotskyites’ by the Daily Worker. The rigour of his political commitments. 6). and then the tragic and fatal encounter with the wild orchids on the mountains of north-western New Jersey. books believed to offer everlasting leftist commandments on morality and truth. grew up believing that decent people had to be at least socialists if not Trotskyites all the way. where Mrs and Mr Rorty sent their overachieving child to save him from a wild bunch of high-school bullies. began to be disturbed by unspeakable private passions: first. Rorty continues to evoke other scenes from his childhood: his father had almost accompanied Dewey to Mexico where the latter chaired the commission which cleared Trotsky from Stalin’s charges. Young Richard. By the time he was twelve.3 Rorty recalls growing up in a family whose sacred texts were The Case of Leon Trotsky and Not Guilty. Although he later abandoned orchids for Proust and Hegel. and Solidarity. Rorty continued to be concerned by the same questions: is it possible to reconcile what is important for oneself with what is important for society? Is the time dedicated to literature and philosophy a time taken away from politics? Thirty years after his departure from Chicago. Rorty was proud to be the only kid around who knew the places of origin. had to be the place for such a powerful reconciliation. Carlo Tresca. 7).88 The Domestication of Derrida begins with Trotsky. philosophy was the mirage of a dimension where his interest in flowers would enjoy an ethical-political justification. Rorty reconstructs the causes that brought him to the private–public split in Contingency. was a family friend to whom Rorty served sandwiches during a Halloween party. Irony. Rorty decided that his personal mission consisted in reconciling Trotsky with his wild orchids – public justice and private desires. the wild orchids and their disappointing irreconcilability. a collaborator of the Russian revolutionary hid in Rorty’s home on the Delaware River. For Rorty. Anxious to exhibit his liberal-progressive credentials. How to justify such an overwhelming and apolitical passion for orchids before the voice – who perhaps spoke English with a Ukrainian accent from Yanovka – of his conscience? Is not the esoteric pastime of picking orchids an unforgivable distraction from the commitment to constitute a system that would guarantee the right to happiness for citizenry as a whole? ‘I was afraid that Trotsky (whose Literature and Revolution I had nibbled at) would not have approved of my interest in orchids’ (p. Rorty already understood that ‘the point of being human was to spend one’s life fighting social injustice’ (p. however. Rorty . the interest in the Dalai Lama.

He claims rather that it is wrong to measure with the meter of political or moral utility. Their mistake consisted in affirming that the private is public.’ just as the former attitude exalts those who ‘live for others. instead. Duties to oneself and duties to others are destined to be fulfilled in two different and irreconcilable linguistic spaces. To satisfy the galaxy of desires that we are. Consequently. Rorty thinks of Sartre and Savonarola as two aberrant examples of the monolingual attempt to judge human activities on the basis of a single paradigm. Rorty does not discuss this matter. and perhaps it is also pointless to look for the moral in the artworks that Savonarola censured.’ Those who draw the same contrast to the advantage of ‘the aesthetic’ often presuppose a distinction of the same sort. ‘aesthetic taste. and Solidarity will now provide further clarification of Rorty’s position.’ Those who draw this moral-aesthetic contrast and give priority to the moral usually distinguish between an essential human faculty – conscience – and an optional extra faculty. cannot be taken seriously by a . While Sartre criticized Proust as an insignificant writer and man was insignificant for the struggle against capitalism’s violence. the heretic Dominican condemned art as mere vanity. One cannot indulge in mere hedonism or total militancy. we need to speak at least two languages. albeit both with the same right to exist. Irony.The Resistance of Theory 89 was still searching for a language which might make compatible the sublimity of the orchids with the beauty of the socialist revolution. Rorty slowly began to realize that the pleasures derived from the satisfaction of private desires are inconsistent with the moral imperative of social engagement. Sartre and Savonarola were mistaken since they evaluated the quest for private autonomy with a language inappropriate for grasping its ends. works that were only produced to satisfy their author’s creative urge and promote recreation for their consumers. A long quotation from Contingency. But for the latter the center of the self is assumed to be the ironist’s desire for autonomy. Proust was probably irrelevant for the socialist dream. ‘aesthetic. This Nietzschean attitude exalts the figure of the ‘artist.4 The proposal to divide books on the basis of the faculties they were produced by (conscience or taste). At least two vocabularies are necessary.’ It assumes that the point of human society is not the general happiness but the provision of an opportunity for the especially gifted – those fitted to become autonomous – to achieve their goal. he started abandoning the search for a vocabulary which could resolve the differend between Trotsky and the orchids. for a kind of perfection which has nothing to do with his relations with other people. Books relevant to the avoidance of either social or individual cruelty are often contrasted – as books with a ‘moral message’ – with books whose aims are. After having published in 1979 his first philosophical best-seller.

We need a language in the private. the latter are seduced by something similar to the scent of the wild orchids’ scent. however. Ever more often. The needs dictated by the obligation of achieving our country and those organized around the desire of self-achievement each require a distinct vocabulary. Rorty believes that accepting the necessity to speak several languages on the basis of the goals we pursue is the only effective strategy to satisfy our diverse and contrasting desires. Even respectable men like Ju ¨ rgen Habermas have brought such charges against the so-called ironists. when we take care of ourselves and create who we want to be.90 The Domestication of Derrida thinker like Rorty who does not believe in an immutable essence preserved at the heart of humankind.5 The arguments in ‘Private irony and liberal hope’. 82). Many people are happy with who they are and devote themselves entirely to the common good. have the same dignity as the books which speak of beautiful feelings (such as respect. their urgencies and their desires. The reasons behind Rorty’s firm distinction between public and private demands become clearer in the fourth chapter of Contingency. Rorty’s dangerous defence of ironist theory – an alibi perhaps even more dangerous than Habermas’ indictment – relies on the enforcement of the private–public separation. an autonomy that only a lucky few can pursue. while others are useful to reform the public space. Irony. Here is what Rorty writes: . Many others devote themselves only to personal perfection. must learn to make both speak. The blame does not only come from dullminded conservatives. The essentialist divisions taste– conscience and beauty–truth. The vigour of renewed accusations of irresponsibility against leftist intellectuals depends on this very cultural logic. Christian fundamentalists or retro-scientists: ‘people who have not read the books against which they warn others. the intelligentsia discusses autonomy and individual perfection. There is no point in trying to grade these different interests on a single scale. More and more books can be traced to the Proust–Nietzsche–Heidegger canon. and Solidarity. The former vocabularies obey one’s personal equivalent to Trotsky’s voice. are motivated by the observation that ironic intellectuals increasingly dominate world culture. Whoever is attracted to both kinds of desires. and another language in the public. are thus regenerated in proper pragmatic terms by the ironist: certain works can be used to revolutionize the private sphere. and are just instinctively defending their own traditional roles’ (p. The books in search of a sublime autonomy from tradition. when we are concerned with our fellow human beings. solidarity or friendship) to which anyone can relate. ever less do leftist intellectuals devote their work to diffusing progressive ideas in the social body. This is not to say that private and public desires are always in conflict. anxiety of influence and private ecstasy.

Once it has been skimmed of any political and ethical thrust. In Rorty’s opinion. 83). In Frederick’s century – as Kant dubs the Age of Enlightement in homage to Frederick the Great – there were not so many readers with access to the . so much so that I will focus on the danger of the alibi offered by Rorty to Derrida. Foucault did not only offer his thought to the service of micro-physical revolutions and knowledges in revolt. Rorty is able to save it from Habermas. But they are ‘pretty much useless when it comes to politics’ (p. a project which can be exclusively grounded on the Enlightenment concepts of rationality and universality.The Resistance of Theory 91 Whereas Habermas sees the line of ironist thinking which runs from Hegel through Foucault and Derrida as destructive of social hope. Ironists in search of personal autonomy as Foucault or Derrida are invaluable for those who are involved in regenerating a private identity distinct from traditional canons. I see this line of thought as largely irrelevant of public life and to political questions. Habermas believes that the critiques of rationality and universality are irresponsible and dangerous since they oppose the project of finding a social glue able to be a substitute for religion. It is undeniable that Foucault is one of the most valuable public intellectuals for post-war society. here is an instance of that ‘repressive tolerance’ which Derrida attributes to Rorty’s defence. 83) The results obtained by the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons or by the gay awareness actions in which Foucault was involved are witness to his invaluable influence on contemporary political life. and in the Italian 1977 Autonomia among others. Habermas should not bother blaming post-structuralism since it did not and cannot have any influence on modern society’s public life. Thus Derrida would appear as a corrupter of the young and helpless. of highlighting how and why deconstruction is – or might be – politically relevant. the sexual flowers par excellence. exiled light years away from any public sphere. making them indifferent to their duties before democracy. what remains of deconstruction? One problematic aspect of Rorty’s thesis is that a clear-cut division between what is influential in private philosophical circles and what is relevant in the public domain is difficult to maintain. in student movements both in the United States and across Europe. he arrests philosophy to the privacy of personal self-enjoyment. Rorty reduces philosophy as a whole to an equivalent of his own private search for wild orchids. After spending so much time depicting Derrida as a perverse and genial adolescent – as Terry Eagleton put it6 – it is easy for Rorty silently to suggest a connection between deconstruction and the passion for wild orchids. Foucault has been a key figure in anti-psychiatric struggles. The stakes are clear: instead of opposing Habermas’s thesis. Once again. By reducing deconstruction to a private pastime. but at the same time. but he also put his body on the line. Moreover. (p.

If Derrida’s gestures can be exemplary. Derrida. whereas when undertaking a more public role.92 The Domestication of Derrida debates that lit up the Berlinische Monatschrift. he was obliged to control his critical attitude. the line which separates a publication which is private and specialized from the one reaching a broader audience? How is it possible to determine a priori the destination of theory? To decide who will be the addressees that an envoi will end up reaching? Quite brutally. Irony. when the interest in ‘theory’ is larger than ever. beyond its platitudinous common sense. discredit or delay) the arrival of such utopia. To make one’s ‘private life’ public by publishing love envois is to engage in public acts with public effects. As a matter of fact. if they are extremely important for one group of people. In 1784 the philosophical arguments were only available within limited academic circles. The former write for the common welfare while the latter for renewing and amusing a few chosen people. in ‘Habermas. their discourses – whose creativity proves that the realm of possibility can be enlarged – do nothing concrete to justify or hasten (but not. and Solidarity – Rorty admits the relevance of Heidegger and Derrida in the quest for social justice. The belief that Derrida’s fantasies cannot be used for any public. And yet. for example. is a public and a political decision. They are politically relevant for they show the kind of private autonomy any individual should be able to pursue in a utopic democracy.7 The first difficulty of this argument is that it is unclear whether Rorty believes discourses presumably more argumentative and accessible to the people – Habermas’ or Rawls’s for example – to be actually relevant for public life. and the functions of philosophy’ – an essay included in the 1998 collection Truth and Progress but initially intended to be a part of Contingency. how can we establish nowadays. it follows that they undoubtedly have a pedagogical function. despite what Habermas believes. Rorty’s privatization of deconstruction is based on a strikingly similar argument: philosophy is a private matter since it interests only a few people. and those like Derrida who are writing to stimulate themselves and their readers. political or pedagogical means but can nevertheless function as examples of what might be done. Actually. at a time when archives and libraries are becoming virtual and thus more accessible. The second difficulty is that the relation between philosophy and politics is put in different terms in . rather than on seemingly more immediate political questions. to forestall. What is more public and concretely political than the irony offering new descriptions to look at reality and renew the ‘we’ to which one belongs? To publish texts on flowers or masturbation. it is very difficult to understand where Rorty is going with his argument. Rorty divides authors in two categories: there are those who are moved by the commitment to fighting injustice. However. seems to be driven by an internal tension. Such innocuousness allowed Kant – at least in theory – to speak freely when addressing his colleagues.

Rorty claims that pragmatists should not bow their heads to those severe critics who think that dismissing the idea of Truth is rash. Deconstruction and pragmatism are public acts which aim to interrupt such vocabulary. work our way out of it. though in order to create a new future rather than. and making us attend for centuries their colossal and indefatigable anaparalyses?9 Thus. and the self-image of their community’. Derrida. by Greek metaphysics. . nor should they become convinced that the only reasonable thing that philosophy can do is to survey the universals which shape our form of life. however. Soon after. to restore the Heraclitean adobe where Gods and humans once dwelled together. mixing themselves up in everything. Contingent. jumped on his chair. During a conference in Paris in 1993 on the relationship between deconstruction and pragmatism. romantically idealistic author. Rorty’s position seems to coincide with what Derrida suggests regarding the Socrates–plato couple in a postcard dated 6 June 1977: Do people (I am not speaking of ‘philosophers’ or of those who read Plato) realize to what extent this old couple has invaded our most private domesticity. hopeful. from Foucault for example (and what is it that makes Foucault the monster who Rorty has always to condemn?). as Heidegger wanted. We need at once to talk and contest the vocabulary which snuck out of the walls of academia and – contaminating and contaminated by the events it encountered along its way – arrived to shape our mode of being in the world. Rorty claimed that what distinguishes Derrida from those other contemporary ‘continental’ thinkers. but not only.The Resistance of Theory 93 another essay from Truth and Progress. upon hearing such a statement. Pragmatists instead ‘should see themselves as involved in a long-term attempt to change the rhetoric.8 In this case. someone who believes in the future and in utopia. because all the attempts to circumvent it have so far failed. the common sense. In ‘Is truth the goal of inquiry?’ Rorty does not defend pragmatism from the charges of being a form of irresponsible quietism by saying that pragmatism does not have anything to do with politics. grabbed his head in his hands. for Derrida – and at times even for Rorty – one could describe metaphysics as an axiomatic which is not merely contingent nor purely necessary. taking their part of everything. is that Derrida is a sentimental. and in despair. Necessary. Derrida had to admit to himself and to others that Rorty was. but simultaneously both necessary and contingent. because we cannot believe there is something fatal or natural in a vocabulary which forbids us to make it inoperative and thus. somehow. a community whose present Rorty believes is structured also.

In Achieving Our Country.11 Since Derrida is whispering to us an alternative to the system of values promoted by philosophy. Rorty argued that Derrida is suggesting how things might look if we did not have Kantian philosophy built into the fabric of our intellectual life. such regeneration is not something urgent. and thus was not suspicious or diffident in regards to progressive political actions. the objectives and the language of the American Cultural Left starting from the late 1960s. but those members of the so-called Cultural Left who. in this case. without being complicit with it himself. Rorty’s target is not in this case Derrida himself.94 The Domestication of Derrida at least in part. the Capital with contemporary apocalyptic French philosophy. according to Rorty. some of his admirers demanded a Left so radically and purely anti-metaphysical that they deprived themselves of the opportunity to give a concrete contribution to politics. While. Derrida underlined the necessity of negotiating with the present. progressive intellectuals stopped being interested in the economy and started holding the unconscious responsible for the illnesses of society. denounces the double bind of filiation: Derrida is among those responsible for a frantic tone recently adopted in politics. In a moment of economical crisis and global instability. Already by 1978. as his predecessors suggested how things might look if we did not have religion built into the fabric of our moral life. Rorty. metaphysical – presuppositions.. The project which would link American pragmatism to European post-structuralism comes from their mutual desire to influence common sense in order to free it from the metaphysical ground on which it is based. products of the histories we lived and the vocabularies we spoke. influenced by the critique of humanism and Enlightenment. Gradually substituting Marx with Freud. right. Only in an affluent and fully democratic society would there be space and time for the sublimity of such a project. even before the attention to Derrida’s so-called ethical turn in 1980s.e. In avoiding any complicity with the axiomatics of tradition.12 And yet. rolled back from all progressive movements which tried to reform the American society because of their naive – i. it does not make sense to pass the deconstruction of actuality as the primary social mission. Rorty appoints him as an advocate for the possibility of changing vocabulary. There are other urgencies for society. The people will eventually believe that no human nature really exists: they will come to accept the fact that we are ‘contingent through and through’. they became self-exiled in the ivory tower of philosophical critique.10 It is a fact that Rorty was one of the first to point out the profound promise informing the structure of deconstruction. Rorty describes the demobilization which has transformed the strategies. This new academic Left ‘thinks more about .

81). one is also moulding a future community. nowadays. One can no longer rely on good old methods like censorship and open threats as used for instance by Frederick William II. are controlled by the government. those closer to practical necessities and doing. can access it. one can limit the audience of students to which philosophy is offered. And one can revoke funding if. for example. the faculty of philosophy. why are (especially) those in the Humanities labelled as corruptors? It was already clear to Kant that philosophy as a discipline and as a faculty could exist only in antagonism with the powers of tradition and socio-political-cultural conservation. the public enemy number one was a mental attitude rather than the economical system. more sophisticated and less evident ways of controlling critical thought. And yet. Rorty acknowledges that the influence of the Cultural Left on academic programs diminished the tolerance to sadism and cruelty against minorities: ‘The adoption of attitudes which the Right sneers at as ‘‘politically correct’’ has made America a far more civilized society than it was thirty years ago’ (p. the one and only true chance was in the psychic revolution. a certain kind of social group. School is the one place where it is harder to separate language’s constitutive role and its performativity. The lower faculty. The recognition of the otherness of the others. more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivation than about shallow and evident greed’. Unfortunately. The act of accusing teachers with irresponsibility relies on the consciousness that in educating youth. Women’s Studies. The right to philosophy and critical thought is always . Conservative and pro-governmental powers intervene to prevent this emancipation of minors. This is why. Philosophy is. starting from 1968. they sit in the right wing of the academic senate.The Resistance of Theory 95 stigma than about money. the system of policing critique needs to be attuned to democratic rhetoric. For example. or should be. the higher faculties.13 The leftist turmoil moved from Social Sciences departments to Humanities buildings. Only a certain type of high school. Moreover. in the United States. the age at which students are exposed to philosophy can be delayed. and defend the reasons of the State. scholarships whose area of focus are the ‘sacrificial victims’ of the system (Critical Race Theory. of their difference – perhaps even of their diffe ´rance – is the only way to access the reign of Justice. People were no longer worried about finding an alternative to market economy. Post-Colonialism. is only interested in and responsible for critique. the appointed Dean to a newly established Southern Californian law school turns out to be too liberal. In The Conflict of the Faculties. closer to the King. in fact the place where students are encouraged to doubt every pre-established truth and to venture into reality with their own light. Thus. the liberation of the conscience. One has to find new. Chicano Studies and so forth) started to blossom.

The changes that can be obtained in public consciousness without a transformation of the economic dynamics in which such a consciousness is placed are superficial and ephemeral. Rorty reproaches the Cultural Left for having worried too much about superstructures and ideologies. White resentment and hostility will be directed against those minorities who seem to benefit from the politically correct attitude which sprout from academic centres. will be constantly tormented by fears of wage rollbacks and downsizing. and of the disastrous consequences of even a brief illness. Rorty’s general position on the privatization of deconstruction and philosophy is now clearer. this income permits a family of four only a humiliating. While the Humanities taught good feelings and good manners through critical theory. hand-to-mouth existence. Rorty does not really refute that Derrida’s work has some bearing on public life. they will make that much [$30.50 per hour).000 a year]. the problem – at least so it seems at first glance – is not that the Humanities are naturally leftist hubs for social protest. As . But $30. For Rorty. Critique and critical theories are not sufficient. In a country that believes neither in public transportation nor in national health insurance. Such a family.96 The Domestication of Derrida in danger because the attitude favoured by the lower faculty resists the sovereigns’ desire to dominate and govern. (p. The Left failed in fact to channel the rage of an always poorer middle class. The problem is that the intellectuals from the Cultural Left have not done enough to help realize the social reforms necessary for saving the United States from the steady increase of economic inequality and instability. If husband and wife each work 2. social injustice devoured the American dream: that is the problem.000 hours a year for the current average wage of production and nonsupervisory workers ($7. letting it be played by the populist and reactionary forces of the Right. unlike liberal-bashing commentators. or against – let me add – the enemy fabricated after 9/11: the Muslim. and too little about the reform of the economic infrastructure.000 a year will not permit homeownership or buy decent daycare. How can the reform of libidinal economy or political unconscious resist the project of impoverishing 75 per cent of the American population and 95 per cent of the world population? Rorty strongly believes that all the transformations of common sense which developed in the American public scene during the last decades are doomed to be revoked once another recession makes the middle class even poorer. one can be productively engaged with the political life of a given community. What he contests is the delusional belief that exclusively by passing through ‘theory’. which ruined the United States. 84) The Cultural Left ended up ignoring the process of proletarization. trying to get by on this income.

It does not. in a generation or two. take any ‘critical-linguistic analysis’ to notice that millions of children in American ghettos grew up without hope while the U. One does not need elaborate critiques of society for its injustices are obvious. yet the fight against social injustice does not have to care about the deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence. Only professors in the Humanities can claim that deconstruction is the only means of being an effective ‘political animal’. insurance salesman. or about the circumvention of Platonic vocabulary.14 Deconstruction or pragmatism can have a positive political thrust. After all. all those people who still think that either natural or social science can change our self-image for the better by telling us what we really.The Resistance of Theory 97 Rorty argues in ‘De Man and the American Cultural Left’. They have been invaluable to social reform and progress. essentially. Rorty does not see the exigency for more critical theory. are. government was preoccupied with making the rich richer – with assuring a greedy and selfish middle class that it was the salt of the earth. and biochemists – people who have never read a text closely. the Cultural Left imposed a rewriting of curricula such that. 135) The real target of Rorty’s polemics is the ridiculous belief – though any statement can sound ridiculous once skilfully isolated from its context – that the millennium of universal peace and justice among men and women would come once we all become ‘ethical readers’. (p. a lot of such repression is so blatant and obvious that it does not take any great analytic skills or any great philosophical self-consciousness to see what is going on. What is necessary is a new reformist project able to win the majority of the voters. The same can be said of lots of essentialists – for example. plumbers. It is not just the case that one has to have a Saussurian-WittgensteinianDerridean understanding of the nature of language in order to think clearly and usefully about politics. (p. 135) It is a blunder to think that we can terminate the suffering caused by late capitalism if we just succeeded in bypassing metaphysics.S. Lots of people who accept theocentric or Kantian logocentric accounts of moral obligation unconsciously and uncritically – starting with Kant himself – have done very well at political thinking. by conquering academic departments. Even economists. much less deconstructed it – can recognize that the immiseration of much of Latin America is partially due to the deals struck between local plutocracies and North America banks and governments. the conventional wisdom ‘inculcated’ into young Americans will change. One does not have to be an antiessentialist in philosophy in order to be politically imaginative or politically useful. for example. nor is literature. as only an . intrinsically. Philosophy is not that important for politics.

Thus. Rorty criticizes his colleagues not because their political goals would have outweighed their intellectual honesty – as the flourish of panicking conservatives screamed. By repeating a much-quoted jibe by Irving Howe.98 The Domestication of Derrida expert in antisubmarine mines would think of them as central to modern warfare: ‘History is not a conspiracy of essentialist intellectuals’ (p. they attempt to persuade each other that their professional competences have a decisive political relevance. The Humanities crown themselves as the main body of faculties for the fight against exploitation. Literary theory becomes an indispensable tool for the debunking of ideological discourses.16 Radicalism and philosophy in the privacy of self-achievement. one has automatically satisfied his duty toward civil society. and stay reformist and pragmatic when it comes to my dealings with other people. reformism and common sense in public engagement. thought and politics.’15 It almost appears as if Rorty is suggesting that taking over academia is not enough. the sense of guilt provoked by their social inutility is silenced. In saying that metaphysics spreads ‘from Plato to NATO’. In this way. Rorty writes: ‘These people don’t want to take over the government. While Foucault has monstrously confused the private and the public. A certain Cultural Left gets to the point of affirming that the problems of ideology and politics can be approached only on the basis of criticallinguistic analysis. this limited number of privileged individuals overcharges its private interests with political significance and public functions. Believing so is a self-justificatory excuse from Trotsky’s protests against the wild orchids. they just want to take over the English Department. He rather targets the alibi that. This is Rorty’s solution to the intricate relationship between theory and practice. . That which divides them – at least in Rorty’s reading – is the very way in which each understands the relation between critical theory and leftist politics: I want to save radicalism and pathos for private moments. Derrida handles the same topic in a totally different way. According to Rorty. by being a professor. leftist intellectuals are ashamed because the economic infrastructure diagnosed on the ground of social injustice is also what enables them to pursue their passions. connecting the radical questioning of a certain philosophical practice with the engagement toward a democracy to come. Deconstruction and pragmatism might work together against logocentrism and essentialism. Pragmatism sees itself as allied with all those long-term attempts which aim at changing the rhetoric. 136). the self-awareness of that portion of mankind which is the West. professors try to defeat the occupational alienation haunting their bad consciousness. the common sense. Closed in libraries or participating in sit-ins.

through a close dialogue with Kant. To put it briefly: once the Kantian claim that philosophy is the . the only thing left for philosophy was to be a discipline.The Resistance of Theory 99 philosophical critique and social engagement. (Walter Benjamin. Henry IV Part I) On the first evening of fighting. from the height of philosophy. Derrida would have been decent enough to keep philosophy within the boundaries of private life. one could actually spot the foundations on which the other academic disciplines rest. it so happened that the dials in the clocktowers were being fired at simultaneously and independently from several locations in Paris. Still ending at the arrival of an hour. The Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Rome is not located with the other faculties in the university town. From the roof of the mansion. and the 1999 ‘The university without condition’. (William Shakespeare. once philosophy had given up the self-legitimation of being the sole transcendental critique and admitted its own failure. ‘On the concept of history’) I studied philosophy in a rather interesting place. were too long. which. Yet the very isolation of the faculty of philosophy from the social body of the city makes it almost irrelevant for the people. arrives at concerning philosophy as a political practice of civil disobedience. Is it possible to observe from a distance. then why should a prospective student even consider philosophy? With what perspective? Rorty’s answer to the question is easy: philosophers just want to have fun. In the next section. But if from that roof one cannot grasp the bases of other knowledges. one can enjoy the panoramic view of the city beneath. the time of life is short! To spend that shortness basely. As I argued in the first chapter. Reading the 1980s’ ‘Mochlos. And if we live. on a clear and serene day. I will show how Derrida. the structures of the other faculties? It would be quite striking if. Casting a Maybe at the Heart of the Present O gentlemen. as other positive discourses – as art for example – was interested in positing new truths. Philosophy has chosen as its residence the ancient Villa Mirafiori on the edge of Via Nomentana. If life did ride upon a dial’s point. or the conflict of the faculties’ and ‘The principle of reason: the university in the eyes of its pupils’. we live to tread on kings. I will show that Foucault and Derrida’s ideas of philosophy are not as distant as Rorty would like them to be.

This model is not older than three hundred years. is to have a justification for existence.18 Yet. It is not that the university is dead and buried. These essays were originally offered by Derrida to the pupils of prestigious American institutions (Columbia. the vocabulary of transcendental philosophy opposed the purity of authentic knowledge. to be explainable according to the ‘principle of reason. to have a meaning. A certain paradigm for the disciplinary division – the one that from Ko ¨ nigsberg . Thus.17 Derrida’s ‘The principle of reason: the university in the eyes of its pupils’.100 The Domestication of Derrida critique and not a discipline falls. In particular. the fundamental research which is immune from pragmatic purposes (the theoretical). and on the other hand. In the phrase raison d’e ˆtre. unsecured in the here and now. a reason for being. the German-universal idea of university is nowadays disturbed by a certain finitude. a purpose [finalite ´ ]. It is on the basis of this fracture that the modern paradigm of university has been constituted. between the Kantian The Conflict of the Faculties and the institution of the University of Berlin. the faculty where people indulge in the pleasures of irony. philosophy is erected as the most private of all disciplines. tackles exactly the grounds justifying the sectorization of the institution called ‘university’ – the division within academia of different faculties. be economically applied or utilized. Derrida investigates the existence of Philosophy as a distinct and separate faculty. a destination. but that the presuppositions organizing its structure are perceived as belonging to the past. Why does the Faculty of Philosophy exist? In view of what? With what views? End-orientation is what justifies the authority of the so-called technosciences. Derrida questions the purposes and reasons of philosophy. on the one hand. The three essays by Derrida that I will deal with in this section are inspired by the same problematics organizing Rorty’s work.’ as it is sometimes called – in terms of a reason that it is also a cause (a ground. its place in relation to the city and in relation to other academic disciplines. Against the utilitarian self-justification of applied sciences. of those disciplines whose research can pay off. one ends up having. this causality takes on above all the sense of final cause. positive sciences which produce knowledges in view of pragmatic drop-outs (the technological). Cornell and Stanford). that is to say also a footing and a foundation. some of them with a public purpose. a knowledge whose sole business is the truthful and disinterested use of reason. From such private and inaccessible premises. ground to stand on. since its instauration as a universal example can be dated between 1798 and 1810. It is also to have a cause. others with a merely private destination. ein Grund). To have a raison d’e ˆtre.

and precisely for this very motive. their role is to have a certain influence on the public. Let us not forget that the interest in governmentality coincided with the birth of the territorial. getting displaced from the Church to the State. the State needed new and more effective methods of taking care of its multiplied and diversified body. how to govern armies. a university does not exclusively raise scholars and scientists but also a professional class in the service of State interests. The demands of the postfeudal formations with their vast territories and diverse subjects required a new way of being sovereign. diplomatic aides. As tools of governance. how to govern a family. dividing one faculty from all others. The disciplines which cultivate officials to serve in the government belong to the higher faculties. instruments of sovereign power.The Resistance of Theory 101 arrives at the rectorship of Freiburg passing through Berlin – is in crisis due to the shaky authority of its grounding. Such a lay-out is neither an empirical arrangement nor just a clever systematization. As Foucault notes in his 1979 ‘What is critique?’. its architecture.’21 The demographic boom of the fifteenth century was one of the main reasons why the art of governing shifted from a religious practice to a political project. administrative and colonial modern States. how to govern the poor and beggars. It has to be based. on a pure transcendental deduction: ‘Kant’s principal concern is legitimate for someone intending to make the right decisions: it is to trace the rigorous limits of the system called university. What is ultimately questioned is the possibility of maintaining strictly separate constative and performative languages. says Derrida. Techniques were needed to shape the citizens’ lives in order to control their natural indocility and exploit their potentiality in view of a presumed common good. cities. As Kant explains in The Conflict of the Faculties. from the fifteenth century onwards. States. is not for Kant an empirical or accidental fact. It seems fair to conclude that the task of such higher faculties for Kant is to develop and help enforce what is now called the art of governance.’19 The organization of the university. a border within the academic territory. The State assumed as its responsibility the care . The academic topology is an artificial institution which has at its basis the very structure of reason. as government agents. Europe witnessed an explosion of knowledges concerned with the question of how to govern the multitude of people forming a nation: ‘how to govern children. Derrida is interested above all in the reasons Kant offered to justify the division between higher faculties and the lower one. Kant intended to draw a line which could delimit the university’s place within society. different groups.20 These people are trained inside the university with the view that they will assume civil duties outside it. a house. Punishing was not enough. Since the population was increasing exponentially. they can only act under strict governmental supervision.

Kant assigns the authority of critique to philosophy. which. Eventually the people cannot survive without the State’s caring and paternal superintendence. nobody could say . but also because it is closest to the mechanics of knowledge. whose prestige is determined by their looking beyond academia.22 Finding their arche ´ in the reason of the State. medicine and theology – was to produce more apt knowledges to take care of and govern the bodies of the citizens and the social body successfully. and to provide the State with an apparatus able to sustain the new mode of governance. The task of the higher faculties – law. the State makes it careless. but also of making the community comply with such principles: governmentalization – as Foucault defines it – is the ‘movement through which individuals are subjugated into the reality of a social practice by mechanisms of power that appeal to a truth’. should create a law limiting their own influence and submitting all its statements of a constative type (those claiming to tell the truth) and even of a ‘practical’ type (insofar as they imply a free judgment) to the jurisdiction of university competence and. which just and unjust. In theory. Power for Foucault becomes biopower precisely when it starts assuming life as its object and objective. it takes away from the citizens the possibility of caring for themselves. decide which ones are true and false. the higher faculties occupy a powerful and threatening place within the academic cartography. Of course. to that within it which is most free and responsible in respect to the truth: the Faculty of Philosophy. Putting the multitude under its lifelong tutelage. It should screen every position expressed by the people both governing and governed. would not have any concrete role in enforcing the governmentalization of citizenry. It is not only a matter of determining what the nation must believe. or that represent it (civil society). the lower faculty. The State itself should protect the lower faculty from the parasitism of such departmental centres of power. one could not imagine the existence of such a faculty either in Kant’s epoch or today. to the government of society. as opposed to the higher faculties. finally. Such a faculty is inferior not only because it is the furthest from State force and interests. incapable of care. But in doing so. we will see. As Derrida reconstructs Kant’s discourse: The government and the forces it represents.23 Kant assigns a titanic responsibility to philosophy. which moral and immoral. that is. evaluate all the assumptions on which they ground their practices. It would instead be granted the right to decide freely the truth and falseness of the discourses and practices enforced by the higher faculties and analyse their pragmatism. Within the university there should be a guaranteed counter-power.102 The Domestication of Derrida of the lives of its citizens.

Kant does not imply that the lower faculty should replace the higher ones in the government of the State. an executive power denied the university. Only the people educated in the higher faculties are competent enough to respond to public demands. a resistance that can be judged in turns as most rigorous or most impotent. The Conflict of the Faculties suggests that the fundamental modalities upholding and determining a community as a social reality should be anchored on the transcendental inquiries of the lower faculty. is ‘an unintelligible. If its inquiries overstepped the academic space.25 The question Derrida asks. to defend it from the aggression of those interested in governance. its power is limited to a power-to-think-and-judge. However. in his confrontation of Kant. Kant defines a university that is as much a safeguard for the most totalitarian of social forms as a place for the most intransigently liberal resistance to any abuse of power. Rather. Kant reduces the critical attitude of the lower faculty to a private practice irrelevant to the governmentalization project. only a debate between scholars of the faculty. insists that it is merely for empirical reasons that philosophy has almost no function in public reality. Kant. As Derrida argues. if critique became a public practice rather than remaining an intra-academic quarrel. Rorty. by contrast. to intervene against it. for Kant and Rorty alike. this gigantic critical agency lacking any concrete means for enforcing its findings. To defend the autonomy of philosophical criticism. though not necessarily to say in public.The Resistance of Theory 103 or do anything without going through philosophy. Kant needs to claim that critique has nothing to do with the dimension of performativity. Philosophy. had to settle on arguments strikingly similar to the ones Rorty adopted in his defence of Derrida from Habermas. then State powers would have the right. is whether . In effect. closed book. Kant’s distinction between the public and private – which still motivates our own academic topology – is anchored on the transcendental separation of the constative and the performative. Therefore. since this would involve an action. of which the people take no notice’. Philosophy is only interested in saying the truth. if not the justice. a power-to-say. The difficulty at the heart of this Kantian idea of university is not hard to grasp. Philosophy cannot constitute a political harm to the government of men because it is out of public reach.24 Both Kant and Rorty seem to agree that philosophers cannot have a public role since their discussions are limited to academic circles. Nevertheless. Kant’s act of barricading critique away from social reality authorizes the most contradictory evaluations. in defending Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone from the charges of being a seditious text. action is not its business for its role is purely critical.

Without the possibility of stripping critical thought from its immediate political thrust. because the public utterances of theory are subjected to the censoring eye of the higher faculties and the crown they represent. and therefore. regulates the behaviour of his audience to be in tune with the one of the community itself. in particular in the form of archive. into a reserved.104 The Domestication of Derrida deciding on truth and falseness is not always and already a public.26 Critical thought needs to be kept secret and confined within the boundaries of academia. the discourse. a political. act. Between the public and the private. there is the State. Theory does not undergo State control. The easiness of care-free immaturity – of . so to speak. Privacy is the cost that Kant had to pay to ensure the existence of the lower faculty before the authority of governmentalization. This is why Kant assigns to the lower faculty a language which is purely constative. It is not difficult to notice how the confidentiality agreement. precisely. obeying only their own conscience and knowledge. In ‘An answer to the question: what is enlightenment?’ Kant suggests that sovereign power cannot and should not prevent subcommunities from assuming a set of beliefs conflicting with the truths enforced by governing agencies. their relation with it is mediated by the decisions of the sovereign power. that Kant signed with Frederick William II in the 1798 Conflict of the Faculties is a violation of the Enlightenment project developed fourteen years earlier. designates the unavoidable locus of equivocation [between the language of theoretical statements and of performatives] that Kant would like to reduce. In fact if scholars can think freely. as the legitimate representative of the community. The act of thinking. of reflecting upon what is imposed by the guardians of the State. teaching ends up being the means of producing a harmonious and homogeneous community. The element of publicity. they cannot publicly expound what they think. the necessarily public character of discourse. the teacher. Whence the temptation: to transform. intra-university and quasi-private language. its publication does. The transcendental critique on the mechanics of knowledge must be constituted as private research. The task of teaching consists in having the pupils adopt certain regulated behaviour and beliefs through the process of interacting within the closely structured setting of the learning environment. But since only the higher faculties have the right to decide what the legitimate practices of a given community are. is not restrained to academia. of universal value that is that of philosophy. Those who are appointed to teach the people are bound to teach what the sovereign power sanctions and authorizes as true. In this process. This amounts to saying that even if the scholars of the lower faculty are physically in touch with the community. philosophy would lose its place.

On the contrary. for the moment. Independent thinkers. in the hope that the public will gain total access to free and autonomous use of reason. Yet Kant also notices signs indicating that the present is opening up toward a general liberation from the authoritative discourses produced in the interest of governance.The Resistance of Theory 105 having a book that thinks for me. at the same time. critical philosophy is not a matter of reinforcing the line which separates constative language interested only in truth from performative discourses whose sole interests are of a pragmatic nature. a pastor who functions as my conscience. But the requisite for the maturation of mankind is the public and free use of reason. critical thinking is a responsibility which humankind as such needs to assume. However. claims that Enlightenment consists less in learning about truth and falsity from others. the ‘avant-garde’. is morally obliged to help fellow human beings find the courage and means of thinking for themselves. as a part of the entire commonwealth – which is transnational since Kant talks about a ‘cosmopolitan society’ – every human being has the duty to question the opportunity of the commands which one nevertheless obeys for the time being. Each man. And quite surprisingly if one has in mind what Kant will say in The Conflict of the Faculties. only a few are using their own minds. a doctor who decides my diet – needs to be disturbed. than in learning to question the borders which the different authorities declare impassable. Kant’s enlightenment. Seeming to agree with Rorty’s anti-transcendental arguments. who pretend to respond to public demands while diffusing the idea that philosophy is a nonsense to be cast away. says Kant. For Derrida as for Foucault.27 It is in this perspective that Foucault. If not the art of practical insubordination. Derrida affirms that it no longer makes sense to contrast fundamental research to goal-oriented inquiries: . Kant’s ‘What is Enlightenment?’ suggests that. collapsing Aufkla ¨ rung on critique. as a public officer. It is this sort of Foucauldian critical attitude that I was glad to recognize in Derrida’s essays on Kant and the idea of the university. finds its raison d’e ˆtre in the urgency of emancipating the public from the yoke which subjects it to the truths and practices enforced by State officials. critique at least involves the right to argue publicly. even among the appointed guardians who have seemingly internalized the role of superintendence. which has already broken from the spell of immaturity. For now. have the responsibility to disseminate man’s potency of being autonomous and of caring for himself. the social body is in the hands of the higher faculties’ artful leaders. but that the public will enlighten itself is indeed nearly inevitable. needs to obey the guidelines received by the highest power and its representatives. Kant does not restrain the free use of reason within the walls of the university. if only freedom is granted.

by civil society or capital interest. for example. he had in mind theology. For instance. within philosophy. one should add the funding for research programmes. 143). It is said that each minute two million dollars are spent on armaments. inaccessible to programming by the agencies or instances of the State or. Apparently less dangerous and more pacific disciplines can also serve the war machine. in view of deferred profits: ‘basic’ scientific theory. the salaries of the professors. of course. The sole concern of such basic research would be knowledge. Thus. literature. theoretical physics. philosophy (and. the humanities.106 The Domestication of Derrida It was once possible to believe that pure mathematics. postdoctoral fellowships. translation studies). and philosophy. one can refine the force of ‘psychological action’. chemists or biologists also pursues empirical ends. film and fiction in general can be useful tools for ideological war. which is an alternate method of torture as witnessed in the wars in Algeria and Indochina. according to Derrida. right and science. the expenses for the maintenance of their structures. but never before has so-called basic scientific research been so deeply committed to ends that are at the same time military ends’ (p. a military budget can invest in anything at all. sociology and psychoanalysis. by theoretical physicists. 144) When Kant thought of the academic centres whose services were more suited to pursue State’s practical ends. among . military reason profits from the sciences dealing with the field of language (communication studies. Even the lower faculty – which includes. the disinterested exercise of reason. law and medicine – the Bible. (p. It is not outrageous to claim that in a time of permanent warfare one can exploit the sciences which decode texts as hermeneutics.29 Poetry. literary theory. in Foucault’s words. graduate students’ salaries and so forth. Through psychology.28 In ‘The principle of reason’ Derrida shows that the border between the noble ends pursued by basic research and the utilitarian empirical goals of applied sciences cannot be maintained. especially metaphysics and ontology) were basic disciplines shielded from power. It is evident that the fundamental research undertaken. No ‘pure’ science is untouched by economico-political interests. ‘This is not new. but – presuming that this total covers only the manufacturing expenses – to such an amount. semantics. under cover of the State. semiotics. or the ones which study linguistic pragmatics and rhetoric. under the sole authority of the principle of reason. it is even more difficult to limit the faculties and departments whose truths and knowledges cannot be employed as power-making or power-enforcing tools. These ends are. most of the time military. Today. truth. linguistics.

Those in philosophy. 146). of philosophy. by secularizing the Christian pastoral. Derrida professes the urgency to relaunch the legacy of a certain Kantian attitude and to safeguard the university as the ultimate place of critical resistance against hegemonic powers. to avoid guilt and conquer salvation. insofar as critique does not disturb the force of laws. we should consider how to assume today. from the beginning to the end of his life. The State can pay counter-power forces and allow them free expression. a human being.The Resistance of Theory 107 others. At once inside and outside the boundaries of academia. As Derrida affirms in ‘The principle of reason’ it is a matter ‘of awakening or of resituating a responsibility. mathematics and geometry – can serve State reason. supported the idea that in order to live a good life. whether one belongs to it or not’ (p. the indocility Kant described as the fundamental trait of critique. Foucault objects to reducing critique to a mere theoretical activity. whatever his age or status. State power. cannot bring forth a self-legitimation of a Kantian type. Arresting critical thought in the golden prisons of critical theory institutes and releasing it into academic quarrels can be an inexpensive yet elegant manner of maintaining the socio-political order in force. history. in the university or in face of the university. And for this very reason. pupils and teachers. Critique should not be understood as the desire to police the domain of truth in order to restore a legitimate use of knowledge anchored on the structure of reason.32 In his lectures on Kant. and in particular.31 But. One can freely criticize. As Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality recalls. they cannot be proud to occupy a field of inquiry which is safe from the intertwining of power and knowledge. ‘let them live and flourish: I am strong enough for all that!’. . here and now. yet not because democracy has already arrived. the barrier that Kant drew between truth and power is washed away forever (if it was not always and already lost). It can even be a strategy for a government to advertise its care for free thought. – that of letting its malefactors go unpunished. but indeed to prevent it from ever coming. and moreover. It is not impossible to imagine a society so conscious of its power that it could allow itself the noblest luxury available to it. By profession. what does this critical resistance consist of? Derrida has in mind something very similar to the resistance to authority which constitutes – as Judith Butler writes – ‘the hallmark of the Enlightenment for Foucault’. in the light of the fact that they all posit truths exploitable by coercive powers. within and without philosophy. geography.30 Even if all the differences among departments and faculties have seemingly levelled down in the light of their economical exploitability. the critical attitude professes something related to virtue. it could say. ‘What do I care about my parasites’.

in the name of those principles. when the project of governing souls and bodies became more aggressive and invasive. Rather.34 Foucault makes it clear in fact that critique is not a disinterested activity for it does not intend to protect the purity of transcendental or quasitranscendental inquiries from the pragmatism of the politics of truth. It criticizes the legitimacy of the laws imposed upon the people in the name of ‘universal and indefeasible rights’ to which any sovereign power needs to submit. 46) The indocility of critique – identified by Foucault with ‘virtue in general’ – limits. challenges and escapes the art of governing and its praise for obedience. not by them? (p. In brief. by that. even if a ‘natural humanity’ does not exist at all. critique looks for a way of reinvigorating such will to disobedience.33 Challenging the identification of virtue with obedience. Critique is inspired by the problem of the how. in view of such objectives and by the means of such procedure. ‘to not to want to be governed’ is of course not accepting as true . a movement of resistance emerged. Critique does not attempt to discover what is true and what is false. The act of opposing indefeasible natural rights to the ruling agencies is therefore a way of limiting the right of the sovereign power itself. As Spivak has highlighted. or at least not accepting it because an authority tells you it is true. If governmentalization is the movement which tries to subjugate citizens to a certain politics of truth. (p. it has its own pragmatic interests. a strategic essentialism is crucial in Foucault’s project of resistance against hegemonic discourses. what an authority tells you is true. of strengthening the subaltern revolts against governmentality. not like that. real or illusionary.108 The Domestication of Derrida ‘had to be governed and had to let himself be governed’. comments Butler: he not only denounces . but rather accepting it only if one considers valid the reasons for doing so. scientific or ideological. ‘How to govern’: this is the question State apparatus and its academic prosthesis were anxious to answer. founded or unfounded. critique is the art of voluntary inservitude through which the subject gives itself the right to question truth concerning its power effects and to question power about its discourses of truth. The social multitude – or at least a part of it – had in mind the opposite question: how not to be governed like that. 59). Significantly. The invention of human rights can be a means of confronting authority. Foucault does not necessarily imply the actual existence of human rights grounded on an immutable natural law. It is not in search of a transcendental deduction which might justify the desire not to be governed through an inquiry of the essence of human nature. 43). as such. questions. not of the what. Critique is an attitude and. . The critic has a double task. legitimate or abusive (p. . not for that.

the slippages and the cracks in which a critical intervention can find the necessary space to resist – or at least negotiate – a given regime of truth.39 Acting in the name of something other than what is presently imposed . Foucault’s idea of critique. Such a university would be one of the centres of unconditional resistance against any exercise of power because it would grant itself the right to question all the figures of sovereignty. is located by Derrida at the heart of a university without condition.’37 This sort of leverage that one needs in order to sabotage the minoritizing machine is also a work of fiction. but also tracks down the breaking points of the power/truth mechanism. in view of what might come in the future. Describing the conditions of possibility which make a system function amounts to mapping the fissures which unwork it. A mochlos.38 These oeuvres – and in using this term. even of dissidence in the name of a superior law and a justice of thought’.’35 In ‘What is critique?’ Foucault decisively states that his idea of critique is not to be confused with reflection on the quasitranscendantal that fixes knowledge. of religious and cultural powers. analogically. to use Derrida’s term: ‘The mochlos could be a wooden beam. chimes with Derrida’s quasi-transcendental gestures. a lever for displacing a boat. of economic powers. The truths that the art of governing attempts ‘to naturalize and render hegemonic’ are in fact displaced by the historical philosophical labour which fabricates resisting counter-discourses.The Resistance of Theory 109 the bond between truth and power. the moments where they point up their contingency and their transformability. a sort of wedge for opening or closing a door. The ‘fictive’ opposition to actuality.36 But even if he did intend to distinguish his work from Derrida’s. to lean on for forcing and displacing. I am approaching Derrida’s ‘The university without condition’ – are purported to suspend the grip that the governmentality project has on the real. ‘What this means is that one looks both for the conditions by which the object field is constituted. but also for the limits of those conditions. which inspires his project of an ontology of actuality. a sort of principle of civil disobedience. I am not sure if this 1978 cryptic reference to the ‘quasi-transcendental’ can be read as an oblique attack against Derrida whose notion of e ´criture was with a similar discretion accused of still being too transcendental in ‘What is an author?’ – a lecture which Foucault gave at another meeting of the Socie ´te ´ franc ¸ aise de philosophie ten years earlier. something. in short. Eventually. Foucault recovers the idea of critique he seemed to reject at the beginning of his ‘What is critique?’: that critique itself is a means. an instrument that has other goals in mind. in the Humanities ‘as the place of irredentist resistance or even. and give back to the present its eventness: the possibility of happening otherwise. Deconstruction has its privileged position in this context. The Humanities in particular should be the place where one could discuss and doubt the truths of State powers.

When I was very young – and until quite recently – I used to project a film in my mind of someone who. which translates a deep phantasmic . Invested in making the present a datum. I see very well that this image. a fact. In the process of immunization. sovereign power can rule the present only by regulating the future. deconstruction is not only involved in protecting the university’s autonomy from the invasiveness of the various exercises of power. In other words. A State of right tries to ward off. planting the delayed-action device and then watching the explosion or at least hearing it from a distance. seeks to open the crevices of the present to the possibilities which exceed it. a sovereign power. creates a disarmed community. strategically invoking human rights and denouncing crimes against humanity (while other times denouncing the limits of humanism). Real and rational coincide when the tension between what is and what might be fades. a community which is not munitioned with the force necessary to resist the closing of the present. by night. and I wasn’t in France. in its authoritarian munificence. while governance aims at closing the field of what is actually possible – which equates to expelling the possibility of becoming from the realm of the real – the deconstruction of actuality. The threat to those who rule over the present always comes from the future.110 The Domestication of Derrida on the social body. which I did not experience firsthand.41 Naturally my heroic phantasms – I think this is true for many Frenchmen and Frenchwomen of my generation – usually have to do with the period of the Resistance. to assume time as the stake of its action. when the present is immunized to the risk of the perhaps. as Foucault’s ontology of it. the way in which life is lived after the enforcement of the governmentality project. Walter Benjamin showed in ‘Critique of violence’ that sovereign power imposes on its citizens a life deprived of the faculty of contesting the laws forced upon them. it is the future itself. plants bombs on the railway: blowing up the enemy structure. It is not a ‘whatever’ life. the possibility of suspending the form of life that rules over the present.40 The life that sovereign power cares to protect in its citizens is not life in general. but their present life. and the scope of this menace appears directly proportional to the force required to put the present in play. I wasn’t old enough. with any means necessary. Why? Only by controlling the future – the ‘maybe’ – of what might happen. Sovereign power pretends to defend its citizens (defending in reality only itself) from the possibility of the de(con)struction of actuality. is it possible to immunize the present from the possibility of the future. It also aspires to transform the disciplinary structure of the university in order to establish academia as the place from where to sabotage all the attempts of reducing the present to an immutable totality. Indeed. The possibility of interrupting such a way of living is considered a menace.

making the enemy’s movements more hazardous. For Derrida. This is why John Caputo’s 1988 ‘Beyond aestheticism: Derrida’s responsible anarchy’ and Saul Newman’s 2001 ‘Derrida’s deconstruction of authority’. in Derrida’s acknowledgment that the reason of the strongest is always the best and that. Under the heading of fiction and the experimentation of knowledge.The Resistance of Theory 111 compulsion. to reinvigorate within the multitude the possibility of contesting the present in name of the futures. But the friend. devices that all of a sudden put a transit route out of commission. any exercise of sovereignty is also a roguish abuse of power. for instance. could be illustrated by deconstructive operation. have noticed the presence of an anarchic strive in deconstructive operations: a politics in which no arche ´ . Critique itself has to be related to a ‘fundamental anarchism’ for – as Foucault says and does not say simultaneously – it is linked with the historic practice of revolt. is anarchic by definition. too. Yet deconstruction is ‘undoubtedly anarchic’ – as Derrida specified in the same interview where he declared himself not to be an anarchist – because it engages with the constitutions of spaces where no hierarchy or authority would be stable and immutable. no command. disjointed. Resistance always end up erecting centres of power – as we saw in the previous chapter regarding deconstruction’s jetties. It enables exceptions simultaneously inside and outside the dominated space: the opposition against the exercise of power tries in fact to create liberated places. deconstruction’s unconditional resistance tries to open the space of counter-power. which consists in planting discreetly.42 Against the hostile attempts to close and control the field of actuality. temporary anomic zones in which different forms of life and thought could happen. ground or principle is immune to the possibility of being critiqued and disobeyed. with a delayed-action mechanism. will have to live and think differently. therefore. with the refusal of being governed. The claims of absolute sovereignty on the real are disturbed by the unconditioned right to contest any authority.44 It is hard not to hear an anarchic tonality. dogma. critical thought can produce oeuvres which interrupt – halt – the force .43 The anarchism of deconstruction does not coincide with the anarchist’s dream of an absolute absence of every authority and hierarchy (and for this reason Derrida says ‘I am not an anarchist’). One way in which the Humanities may assume the responsibility of critique and struggle against unjust institutions and institutes is by producing events which have the force to unwork the solidity of the discursive practices regimenting the present. opened up to the spectres of the ‘otherwise’ which always haunts their domain. Such discourses and their axiomatics would be interrupted. the Humanities can take some steps toward an ‘originary anarchy’45 because of their relation to the literary dimension.

Challenging the sovereign powers’ mastery over the real. Founding requires foundational myths. one needs to gather a multitude around a unique fire and compose it into a people ‘as one’. for its ultimate goal is to deactivate the rigid organization of the present by exposing it to its futures. deconstruction cannot enforce a different order of things and therefore fall for the phantasms of sovereignty. but would rather be shared by the plurality of different communities and . But this new world cannot be founded by critique. that critique’s only business is to help create a radically democratic space. Deconstructive critique cannot have any power (which does not mean that it does not have any force: a force of the weak. that is to teach and at the same time ‘to direct. The risk that needs to be avoided is turning critique from a mode of resistance to sovereign power. It aims to make inoperative the discourses which arrest humanity in fixed places and fixed roles. a public space where time itself would be public: the authority over the present would not be alienated from the social. contesting the roguish attitude of so-called Western democracies in the name of international human rights. organize. Critique is destructive because it does not impose a destiny on the living.112 The Domestication of Derrida of economical discourses that put women and men to work and settle them in stable and identified places. The antiauthoritarian force of critique needs to be maintained as dissociated as possible from the figure of sovereignty. This is to say. steer. The time of reflection is another time.46 Striking against this exploitation. the empirical work of the laborers’. class or corporation. even if sometimes it is strategically necessary to challenge given sovereign powers by evoking a higher sovereign law – for example. nor the interest in a new socio-political hierarchization of disciplines and groups. critique – as Benjamin’s general proletarian strike – does not replace the existing system with a different one.49 Critique should not dismantle the power of higher faculties and governance in order to make philosophy acquire more power over the present. It is as if the world begins when and where work ends. it would be necessary to bracket the governance actually at work on the present. reconstituting in such a fashion the powers of a given caste. a weak force does indeed exist) for otherwise it would repeat the traditional dream of the philosopher. regulating and ordering its time through the schedule of the workday. into a superpower itself. What is in fact deconstruction if not the general strike which reclaims the right to contest ‘and not only theoretically’47 the legitimate authorities and all their discursive norms? As if for a new form of politics to begin.48 On the contrary. the labour of theory commits itself to a different form of ‘community’ – to use a word that Derrida does not like but nevertheless uses in his writings on the university. for a radical democracy to start coming. from my point of view. There is no revival of Plato’s Philosopher-Kings here.

the resistance at once theoretical and practical revokes the necessity of the now. economic. who is writing in Kant’s wake to accelerate his own thought. its resistance does not modify reality. By casting a ‘maybe’ in the heart of the present.The Resistance of Theory 113 identities forming a ‘people’. since existence does not belong to the reality of the thing. a means for a future or a truth that it will not know nor happen to be. deconstruction can help disarticulate the present’s solidarity and annul its undisputed authorities. in our case. the totality of predicates which determine its essential kernel. critique only exists in relation with something other than itself: it is an instrument. The oeuvres Derrida talks about are not primarily meant to depict the present differently. When Kant asserts that being is not a real predicate. in a . and so forth). its calendar and its clocks. Such predicates are not affected by deconstructive critique. They should exit the citadel – Stanford. its manner of being becomes modified.51 As Foucault admits. Following Heidegger. Even if the reality (Realita ¨ t) of the present remains unaltered.52 The right to critique requires infinite responsibility. if deconstruction is interested in actuality. Cornell or Columbia – which grants them freedom to the extent that they do not bother or upset a given order. ‘A hundred actual thalers and a hundred possible thalers do not differ in their reality’. What changes in such a process of disjointment? Everything and yet. to all attempts at reappropriation (political. nothing at all. the way of being of time itself. the essence of the present but. The different modalities of being directed towards it do not alter its essence. deconstruction does not ‘unrealize’ time by producing counter-discourses that claim to grasp the essence of the world itself better. Actuality is the manner in which we are directed towards a thing. he means that the actuality of a thing is not a determination which belongs to the conceptual core of that thing itself. through its oeuvres.53 By referring through its gestures and accounts to the possibility of a different happening. they should discontinue indulging in the cushions of their iv(or)y leagues. it is a gaze on a domain that it would want to police but that is incapable of ruling. ‘reality’ is the thingness of a determinate being. the present. critique cannot avoid being untimely anachronistic. but its ‘how’ – that is.54 Thus. The labour of deconstruction aims to modify not the ‘what’ of the now. Academic resistance needs in fact to ally itself with extra-academic forces ‘in order to organize an inventive resistance. to its conceptual determinations.50 Since it wants to explode the continuum of this time. its work. To be disarticulated is the present’s actuality (Wirklichkeit). If the critical forces that have their primary field of action within the university want to be effective in their resistance. juridical. to all the other figures of sovereignty’.

The only possibilities allowed are the ones which confirm. The presence of the present starts appearing only as a possibility. The deconstruction of actuality weakens the being-in-force of the present. It is possible. in its contingency. It begins to emerge in its avoidability. The possibility of the future should not be adored in the silence of a sort of negative theology. not as a transcendental necessity. The contents of the world do not change. it is this king – the present – that we must be tread on. what changes is the way the world is lived. or rather. rather than contest. there is no future. There is only the dictatorship of the present. of a certain democracy?55 In the concentrationary universes which yesterday and today – today in a more discreet fashion than yesterday – are born everywhere in the world. it revokes the now with the aim of allowing spaces where the present would be lived as the field of an unconditioned and transformative critique. is the ‘to come’ of the possible that is being suppressed. to the ‘come’. the peut-e ˆtre. in its potency of being otherwise. the infrastructure of the real. It is a matter of tracing and opening up the thresholds. thus ineluctably immersed in the becoming without destiny of history. . It suspends the necessity of the present not in order to inculcate – as Rorty would like – a utopian future. but to open out to the future. the Enlightenment of a certain Aufkla ¨ rung (thus leaving open the abyss which is again opening today under these words) – not to found. Under the towers delimiting the scope of concentration there is no perhaps. Rather.114 The Domestication of Derrida Husserlian fashion. if we want to engage in the emancipation of that which might come. it should be cultivated in order to negotiate the exit from the same. It is not a matter of enlightening the limits which one knows a priori that one cannot overcome. Deconstructive critique says yes to the spectres of other forms of communities and of being together. The explosiveness of the maybe. there is no past. those narrow gates through which unexpected futures might come. community and politics which eventually might put an end to time. it suspends the manner in which we are directed toward it. where it is no longer a matter of founding. Thus. in assuming a certain faithful memory of democratic reason and reason tout court – I would even say. its necessity. is that which philosophy today has the duty to safeguard.

Rival opinions at the dinner table – is this not the eternal Athens. I will discuss in detail Rorty’s attempt to aestheticize deconstruction in order to safeguard the present from any radical critique of its authority. What Is Philosophy?) Richard Rorty points out that in these analyses I do not appeal to any ‘we’ – to any of those ‘we’s’ whose consensus. Rorty’s. whose values. to decide if it is actually suitable to place oneself within a ‘we’ in order to assert the principles one recognizes and the values one accepts. On the contrary. otherwise – if it were obvious that philosophy does not have any significance in the space of contemporary society – he would not be so anxious to avert critical theory’s publicity in his Achieving Our Country. popular conception of philosophy as providing pleasant or aggressive dinner conversations at Mr. In the preceding sections. localizing in them a potentiality for political resistance. (Michel Foucault. then demonstrated how Derrida in his lectures about and from the university – one of which was delivered in front of Rorty himself 56 – questions the isolation of the Humanities from the public sphere. rather. our way of being Greek again? (Gilles Deleuze and Fe ´lix Guattari. As it should be evident by now. or if it is not.The Resistance of Theory 115 Politics of Conciliation and Politics of Monstrosity This is the Western democratic. politics. Rorty fears that deconstructive attitude will stop being the exclusive property of the cultural avant-garde and will start pouring out of academia’s protected and protective walls. precisely. necessary to make the future formation of a ‘we’ possible by elaborating the question. But the problem is. While praising its anti-philosophical originality. a strange duality binds Rorty to Derrida’s work. and problematizations’) Why is Richard Rorty so afraid of deconstruction? Surely he must feel threatened by it. whose traditions constitute the framework for a thought and define the conditions in which it can be validated. I first clarified Rorty’s distinction between public and private. that he is worried by the spectatorial attitude it might induce in its readers. I am convinced that Rorty’s apprehension is . ‘Polemics. I do not believe in fact that Rorty is really concerned with the presumed non-publicity of deconstruction. In this final section. it can only be the result – and the necessary temporary result – of the question as it is posed in the new terms in which one formulates it. Because it seems to me that ‘we’ must not be previous to the question.


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provoked by deconstruction’s intrinsic political commitment. If deconstruction attempts to create spaces for an unpredictable otherwise, who can grant that what is to come will not be a monstrous catastrophe, something much worse than what we enjoy today? After affirming the theoretical legitimacy of the ironist theory descending from Hegel, Rorty begins to estimate its political desirability. The focus shifts from the aporetic epistemic privilege of deconstruction to its ethico-political usefulness. Assuming that deconstruction leads us far from the tracks beaten by the traditional axiomatic, one begins to wonder if it is worth for critique to be as anachronistic with respect to the present. Language – as politics – can be conceived as a battlefield traversed by two opposite tensions. One pushes toward innovation and transformation, the other toward invariance and conservation. While the first movement aims to produce zones in which the habitual language games are suspended, the second tends to safeguard the grammatical norms in force.57 Rorty believes that only intellectuals can venture along the path of transformative experimentation; the masses should not participate in the language game that asserts the unconditional right to question the structures constituting and regulating our practices. Pragmatism is in fact generously willing to liberate common sense from some of its metaphysical presumptions. In ‘the ideal liberal society’ (as Rorty calls it), all intellectuals will be ironists: they will enjoy questioning the grammar of their form of life. The non-intellectuals, on the other hand, will only be nominalists and historicists.58 We, the people outside the Humanities, will be aware that we are contingent beings produced by historical vocabularies. Yet we will not doubt the contingencies we happened to become. We will not care to understand the normalizing discourses that transformed us into the subjects that we are today, nor would we try to break free from those devices and invent something new. At best, the intellectuals will propose to us alternatives modalities of being in the world. We would not be able to produce by ourselves such new modes of living because we were not trained in the language game of doubting the grammar that shapes our being. Luckily, intellectuals, poets and those others who could afford acquiring such language games (perhaps at Stanford, under Rorty’s supervision) will do the work for us, and social engineers will help resolve the more concrete problems which trouble us. To put it in another way: we will let ourselves be governed by the authors of discourses and norms, while the intellectuals will be allowed to deconstruct the authority of the language games ruling over the present. Politics for Rorty is not a matter of acting in order to desubjugate everyone from the condition of minority; it is not a matter of letting those minoritized speak for themselves. As Rorty candidly affirms in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, ‘I cannot imagine a culture which

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socialized its youth in such a way as to make them continually dubious about their own process of socialization’ (p. 87). The only form of socialization Rorty seems to concede us is the one that – to say it with Wittgenstein – makes us blind to alternatives. Rorty’s liberalism bans the non-intellectuals from the right to dispute the discursive practices that shaped their selves. This right is granted only to intellectuals and only on the condition that they do not abuse the privilege by being too radical in public: irony can only be a private matter, an activity only few can indulge in. The whole business of separating the public and the private as two distinct and insurmountable spheres starts to materialize as the policing action that it really is. Once theory has been extracted from the body of the city, it is not that hard to reduce philosophy into a private hobby, into one’s own wild orchids. Critical thought is first exiled from the public, then it is argued to lack ‘publicity’. Rorty even affirms that it is in the interest of the public that irony should be restrained into the private: ‘most people do not want to be redescribed. They want to be taken on their own terms – taken seriously just as they are and just as they talk.’59 Rorty hopes that critical thinkers will eventually leave the people alone. The people will be taken in the terms they were trained to use; they will just be as they are and talk as they do. But is not the attempt to separate intellectuals from the community a way of preventing the desire for not being governed as we are governed from ever acquiring some public relevance? The ideal liberal society indeed is the one imagined by Rorty. Rorty cannot take seriously Habermas’s claim that to protect the institutes of Western democracies, one has to disclose the universalistic elements of human experience as such. It is flawed to assume that democracy is the one very political model that is attuned to the essence of humanity, that any other political regime would alienate the communicative essence of man: humanity does not have an essence. Democracy does not have to be anchored on the essence of man in general, but only on our own essence; the fact that democracy works for us is enough to justify its existence. Liberal politics cannot aspire to any sort of transcendental deduction for it can only be grounded on our present form of life. However, since the way we live now is the sole assurance for our democratic tastes, in order to protect liberal society, we need to dismiss many alternatives to our ‘we’. What binds liberal societies are not philosophical grounds, but ‘common vocabularies and common hopes’. 60 If one wants to support democracy, then one should try to consolidate exactly such common hopes and vocabularies. For this reason, Rorty’s approval of French post-Nietzschean philosophy comes to an end when it stops being an academic critique of Habermas’ theory of communicative action and starts undermining the soundness of the political hopes which informs it. At one extreme of the philosophical scene is Lyotard, who advocates the idea of the


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revocability of any political narrative; on the other is Habermas, who argues that it is fundamental for a democratic society’s self-image to maintain a universalistic dimension.
Anything that Habermas will count as retaining a ‘theoretical approach’ will be counted by an incredulous Lyotard as a ‘metanarrative.’ Anything that abandons such an approach will be counted by Habermas as more or less irrationalist because it drops the notions which have been used to justify the various reforms which have marked the history of the Western democracies since the Enlightenment, and which are still being used to criticize the socioeconomic institutions of both the Free and the Communist worlds. Abandoning a standpoint which is, if not transcendental, at least ‘universalistic,’ seems to Habermas to betray the social hopes which have been central to liberal politics. So we find French critics of Habermas ready to abandon liberal politics in order to avoid universalistic philosophy, and Habermas trying to hang on to universalistic philosophy, with all its problems, in order to support liberal politics.61

As if to compromise the two positions, Rorty suggests that democracy does not need to be grounded on a universalistic position; nonetheless, one should avoid ungrounding it too much. When Rorty proposes to the Cultural Left ‘a moratorium on theory’, he hopes that the leftist theorists would set aside their foolish critical attitude.62 He wants them to participate in the public discussion on how to reinforce the ‘binding’ of the present rather than fall for the discreet charm of radical emancipations whose outcome cannot be predicted. As Ernesto Laclau commented, Rorty’s disagreement with French post-structuralism (Foucault, Deleuze, Lyotard and so forth) is essentially political, while with Habermas it is merely philosophical and – let me add – strategic.63 The Left, for Rorty, should try to kick its philosophy habit so as to contribute to public welfare. Putting aside the theoretical habit for Rorty coincides with embracing an ideological use of literature. As I argued earlier, Foucault and Derrida consider fictional discourse as a critical lever (mochlos) to unsettle the solidity of our current we. Rorty assigns it the opposite function. Responsible intellectuals should not produce works which exhibit the radical contingency of the current now. A new political wisdom should be organized around the necessity of producing fictions that would protect the social body from the possible disarticulation of its solidarity: in the interests of one’s own community – as a certain Kant would say – intellectuals should shield principles to which they would not themselves subscribe with full conviction. By depoliticizing and privatizing deconstruction, Rorty is able to safeguard the political goals inspiring his pragmatism. His primary intent is in effect to make liberal institutions outlive the demise of the discursive apparatus on which they were grounded. Since the narratives that powerfully justified the liberal

in practice. it does not effectively mark the political body. after all Rorty has proudly and ethnocentrically declared that ‘we must. The benefits we enjoy have eventually made us blind and deaf to alternatives. affirms Rorty. than of getting a temporary private excitement out of such exotic instances.67 . The privilege of being ourselves is so comfortable that we cannot even consider breaking out from our current way of living.The Resistance of Theory 119 society ended up inoperative. As Achieving Our Country reveals. Rorty thinks that these modern constraints have been compensated by the benefits they produced. Since we are sure that Western liberalism is the best thing that can ever happen to us. Literature and literary studies. but it is less a matter of using such books to divert himself effectively from the self that he was trained to be. and even if not. Rorty is perfectly aware of the fact that the existence of the West is grounded on the scientific and capillary destruction of the ‘Other World’ – a world that is not simply ‘abroad’ but also at the very hearth of the liberal modernity – on the exploitation of its raw men and materials. However. Strikingly. But one should not be surprised by such an attitude. Reducing irony and autonomy to inherently private matters is Rorty’s way of blocking deconstructive attitude from deactivating the established social order and promoting the formation of alternative ‘we’. strange families and strange communities. We can survive only by forbidding the Third World’s inhabitants all the comforts we enjoy. As long as irony is a private practice. As far as autonomy is conceived as a mere intellectualistic game against philosophical tradition. or of acquiring topics to converse wittingly about at dinner. it is no longer a political resistance to State governmentality. on the contrary. Rorty does not pay too much attention to the ‘discomforts’ provoked by the Western dream on those who do not participate to it.65 There is no reason for him to care about the ‘not-we’. Nonetheless. the mode of governance characteristic of liberal societies has imposed on their members a variety of constraints which premodern societies could not imagine. the ironist reads books about strange people. as Foucault remarked. under the pretext of disconcerting. Rorty’s biggest concern remains how to defend America’s middle class from impoverishment. new narratives become necessary for accomplishing the same legitimizing task. it plays the game of the established political mechanism. contrary to Foucault. It is not a matter of finding new philosophical grounds for democracy and even less a matter of taking seriously how the critique of Western reason should affect the very structure of democracy. democracy has in itself the means of adjusting its mechanisms and achieving its dream. privilege our own group’. are political insofar as they ‘inculcate’ democratic values in their readers.66 Yes. we just need to come up with a new rhetoric to let it (and us) prosper.64 It is true that.

convinced that the dystopic Oceania was not so far from Washington DC. its past must be . Rorty needs to ward off any discourses that could promote a form of community against the grain of the present. But since a radical intervention in the real is what needs to be avoided in the first place. Theory is in fact denounced – with an ethic of reading one would expect from Allan Bloom – as one of the major obstacles to the reactivation of American pride. a media celebrity. a recent scandal’)68 theory understands politics as the problematization of familiar concepts.120 The Domestication of Derrida Significantly. 66). Therefore. and on the other hand. Secondly. because they wanted to believe so – maybe for a sort of adolescent rebellion against authority figures – and on the basis of some clues like the Vietnam War and State racism (p. that the configuration of the American society does not resemble an Orwellian dictatorship. This is not to say that the New Left. but rather. he subtly suggests that the labour of theory risks generating the same antiAmerican ‘separatism’ that one is supposed to find among members of a controversial formation. Interested in the well-being of this community. their heavy objectivity needs to be bracketed. The New Leftists started to become convinced that the United States was not as pure as described by their parents and their teachers. With its abstract and barren explanations of even the most concrete and simple things (‘a current TV show. Rorty accomplishes this task mainly by following two strategies. We Americans should not be displaced by Foucauldian discourses. specifically the New Left. These problematizations – these ‘stories about hegemony and power’ – work for the Left as the myth of the ‘blue-eyed devil’ has worked for Black Muslims. then one would have the responsibility of revolutionizing that very structure. As usual. it is to affirm that for the sake of our now. ‘We’ Americans need to go about our public business. To save the trust in the United States’ present and future. he denigrates the groups. he very subtly falsifies the events denounced by the 1960s’ radical leftism by resorting to all sorts of rhetorical mediation. theory cannot be right. Rorty does not say that ‘our country’ is not an evil empire. the radicalism of its critique should be now put aside. did not accomplish great things then (‘It may have saved our country from becoming a garrison state’). he denounces ‘theory’ for it produces a retreat from activism and a disengagement from practice. Rorty here does two things at once: on the one hand. But since such accounts would endanger the present of the United States. Rorty’s proposal of putting a moratorium on theory is intertwined with the exigency of mobilizing what remains of the pride in being ‘Americans’. who believe there is something profoundly wrong with the West. If one became convinced that the war in Vietnam or the endless humiliation inflicted on African-Americans were not just mistakes correctable by reforms. First. the United States cannot be an evil empire. Rather. signs of something structurally wrong with the United States.

But when one is engaged in the public space. for Rorty. 97). as Derrida has argued. To participate in the political life of one’s community. the blackmail of foreign debt . 89). Derrida’s Specters of Marx lists ten plagues which can bury the democratic dream: the growing rate of unemployment. we do not need Derrida’s deconstruction and philosophical critique to be aware of the lacerations which wound the contemporary world. if you will – for such history might fire up discontent against the institutes and the values which shape our selves. others Being. economical and trade wars which oppose States to States. it would be impossible to understand why Rorty suggests that there is something wrong in being more interested in the wretched of the earth than in the proletarization of American white bourgeoisie (p. amounts to partaking in the present’s mechanics. Irony. the contrasts between the free market and the rights of labourers. groups and communities would of course require a radical reconfiguration of the so-called Western representative liberalisms. excessively sophisticated languages become ‘merely nuisances’ (p. others the Superhuman and still others. Taking into serious consideration the mechanisms of exclusion from representability and the production of unrepresented voices. it is really difficult to comprehend how he can reconcile the Christian ecumenism organizing Contingency. and Solidarity with the frankly ethnocentric patriotism in Achieving Our Country. For instance. that everyone is to a certain degree ‘guilty’. If it were not like this. the power of critique and the critique of power. When humanity’s welfare and homeland security clash – as it does quite often – Rorty always chooses to privilege the latter. groups of States to groups of States. If one believes that power is everywhere. the exclusion of homeless people from political life. Rorty suggests that part of the disturbance produced by theory is determined by its emphasis on unrepresentability and the unrepresentable. then why should one persist in the attempt to make as just as possible the time in which one lives? Rorty thinks that it would be better if leftist intellectuals worked for the promise of concrete reforms rather than get stuck in post-structuralist critiques. All these sects should be granted the right to believe in what they prefer. does not theory end up risking the very belief that the different countries to which we belong is achieving a great dream? Rorty hopes that the quasi-religious tone assumed by the movement crowding both Atlantic coasts becomes a private cult. to questioning such mechanisms in name of the exploited ‘others’. In Rorty’s opinion. But for this very reason. Rorty insists that considering democratic politics as inadequate would amount to apathy. Everyone seeks individual perfection as he desires. Twisting Derrida’s position upside down. In an interesting manner.The Resistance of Theory 121 forgotten – circumvented. With its sublime critique. Some venerate God. and not.

It is time to dismiss its patient and infinite questioning and start devising answers: Rorty would concede a public value to deconstruction only if it became a normative practice. The privileged ones. but all he can get is the usual unfamiliarization of everything one believed to be familiar. pot-bellied. can one reach a social-economical improvement. Rorty has Derrida in such a high esteem that he awaits practical suggestions for acting. Since only a very limited circle of people holds critical interventions in high account. Ironist frivolity and suspicion have grown old. spiritual.71 Even if such an attitude denotes a certain disdain for the very tolerance on which the institutes of democracy pretend to be grounded. in order to save democracy from critique.69 The problem is that the deconstruction of the distinction use-exchange or the phenomenology of the unrepresentable are not useful tools for resolving such problems. sophisticated ones will have time to criticize privately. who do not have time to read. What Rorty has in mind is a sort of gentlemen’s agreement. but look! It has a supersensible. it should also help establish a credible alternative. Ha! Fooled you! You thought it was real. Deconstruction should not be satisfied with being an exclusively critical force. If Derrida does not want to pick up such a role. The public sphere – as imagined by Rorty – would be a place sheltered from deconstructing parasites. a powerless international law. the democratic spirit of accommodation and tolerance should not reach the point of taking every question introduced into the public sphere seriously. concrete and urgent needs of those who do not read philosophy. one has to accept happily the naivety of the common sense’s vocabulary. one has not to . Only by compromising with it. but now you see that it’s only a social construct! You thought it was just a familiar object of sense-perception. And what about those who insist on producing critique? In Rorty’s opinion. when one is dealing with the real. the increasing power of the arms industry. besides undermining the authority and the credibility of the ‘enemy’. who do not know how to read. then deconstruction should be excluded from participating in public life. mafias and drug cartels which have become phantom states. backside!70 Nowadays the monstrosity of deconstruction has exhausted its subversive power. interethnic wars. Publicly it would be better to avoid it as a form of education and out of respect for the exigency of the others. a domain where critiques too radical are not welcome.122 The Domestication of Derrida which starves a large portion of the planet. the uncontrolled spreading of nuclear weapons. the cultured. It is as if Rorty got a little annoyed with deconstructive practice. interested in inculcating democratic values and safeguarding the established political order. spectral.

democracy takes precedence over philosophy’ (p. ironic and solidaire liberalism. A liberal democracy will not only exempt opinions on such matters from legal coercion. not completely and radically democratic. doing so. Yet it will use force against the individual conscience. Within the economy of Rorty’s arguments. The quite enlightened 1988 ‘The priority of democracy to philosophy’ eventually shows the dark side of Rorty’s contingent. The only arguments that are admitted in the public space – but after all. (p. philosophical and religious beliefs should not be granted any influence on political issues. 192). or conflicts in a too radical manner with the presumed public common sense. the defence of the now of democracy distinguished from its to come – is the supreme value. As Toni Negri and Michael Hardt have argued in the Labor of Dionysus. which justifies even violent interventions in the private realm in order to prevent any threat on the well-being of the present. If the proposal of a moratorium against theory and of a limitation to the range of critique is not enough to safeguard the present. Rorty clearly asserts the possibility of resorting to violence in order to eradicate the philosophical threats to democracy. That is to say. it becomes a limited democracy. When the private either aspires to become public. just insofar as conscience leads individuals to act so as to threaten democratic institutions. The private must not only be distinguished from but also attuned to the public in order to assure a pacified society. then the State is legitimized in using force against individual conscience. 72 Rorty intends to keep not only religious beliefs distant from the political sphere – as Jefferson wanted – but also philosophical problematizations. The exercise of violence has its sufficient justification in the fact that violence is a means of consolidating the very existence of democracy. the defence of democracy – or better. the sanity of democratic institutions is grounded on the denial of philosophy’s relevance to public life. even if it gives up Enlightenment’s demand for a criticizability without conditions: ‘When the two come into conflict. unquestionable and indubitable as God. What is at the same time most interesting and shocking in Rorty’s position is that he does not try to justify theoretically the legitimacy of such eventual repression. The assumption of the contingency of human history . Democracy must be able to limit philosophy even if. also in the private – are those that are aligned with the profound structures which are not to be challenged. Religious or philosophical convictions are allowed in private so long as such beliefs do not interfere with the regular workings of the social order.The Resistance of Theory 123 be religiously democratic. 183) Nothing can claim the right to bother democratic institutions. but also aim at disengaging discussions of such questions from discussions of social policy. Within democracy.

it should be distanced from actual politics. private are all those modes of being together that do not share the hegemonic articulation of the real. being cautiously reformist. The only way to participate in politics is. We are only to find the most suitable means for enhancing our own form of community and thought. Critique. we have the . belonging to the same physical space but organized around a different time. What matters is to be actively engaged in politics. the very contingency of democracy – its weakness. When literature is not enough in assuring the solidarity of the socius and of the we. focusing on the modalities of production and reception of meaning and value. then the police step in. Public sphere is the harmonious space in which consensus in created. Thus one needs to exclude from the public space all those struggles which aspire to favour antagonistic ways of living the now. when theory nearly creates counter-communities both within and without the public space.124 The Domestication of Derrida does not coincide in Rorty with the recognition of the unconditional questionability of all its institutes.73 Since theory is not able to tell stories. Rorty thinks of literature as primarily a normative way of guaranteeing the integrity of a certain social and historical self. The questions that those who spend their lives on philosophy books should ask themselves is whether they want to lose time with disputes such as the spectacular one exploded between John Searle and Derrida. for Rorty. encourage us to put the books away and to go out and do something?74 Rorty would answer – with such an ease that borders on populism – that it is not important at all to remain shut up in libraries forging new concepts which can lacerate the present. On the contrary. And for this very reason. However. not the dimension in which different projects conflict one against the other. if it is not willing to help enforce such stories. as it happens in Derrida. since we are certain of the values and principles in which we want to believe. moreover. that is towards the transformation of the present and the exposedness to what the current system cannot represent. so to speak – requires the deployment of violence to protect it. The kind of weak postmodern liberalism advocated by Rorty is not so weak after all: it does not imply any disarmament towards the other and towards critique. the identity to which we belong cannot be examined radically and publicly. who. that which is important to underscore is that the modality of such engagement is strictly and pre-emptively policed: for Rorty. Bennington wonders: How could we agree to remain shut up in a library poring over old philosophers. Since it is evident who we should be. is ultimately perceived as a threat against the form of life which literature is presumed to build. for the most part. In the best tradition of American literary studies.

The Disneyland of a fictional social equilibrium and harmony. or rather the threat of ultimate force in the final instance. the simulacrum of the happiest place on earth. Critique is tolerated so long as the political indocility on which it is anchored and which it promotes does not constitute an effective threat against the governmentalization project. As usual. But such a resistance to theory is not merely verbal and argumentative. the thin State of postmodern liberalism appear. Rorty’s liberal societies are not founded on good feelings and solidarity. implies that the goal of politics is to harmonize tensions so as to avoid radical changes. mainly through a ‘preemptive argumentative war’. The police are necessary to afford the system abstraction and isolation: the ‘thin blue line’ delimits the boundaries of what will be accepted as inputs in the system of rule. For a start. as a perfect political epidemiologist. Rorty does not immediately prohibit the possibility for a polemic or a debate even though they appear sterile and useless. or they should favour social pacification and expel any desire of conflict from the social-democratic public environment. Philosophers should either be contained in their private distractions. In this sense. In . It seems that Rorty’s discourse aspires to be institutionalized as a tool for protecting society from any danger that can stem from contemporary French philosophy’s monstrosity and from anything which can be even remotely related to it. One has to delimit a private area to prevent the contagious epidemic of countercommunities. the benign practice of avoiding critical problems in order to preserve social harmony can only be grounded on the violent intervention of the police. but on police. as a refinement and extension of the German tradition of the science of the police.The Resistance of Theory 125 responsibility to intervene against the dissemination of the anarchic conviction that any institution and any law can be criticized. Rorty tries to change the topic of conversation and isolate in a spiral of silence those who do not comply with his agenda. Rorty does not hesitate to summon the brutal intervention of the police to enforce the social status quo. Rorty says that the State will discard or set aside elements of difference and conflict. . that it is dangerous for us to renounce the comforts of today’s security. he attempts to convince us. . the West needs to terrorize its citizenry and render them docile. is necessarily backed up by the LAPD. . As Hardt and Negri have highlighted. As soon as critique compromises the bond through which a community is tied to itself. in effect. Terrorized by what might happen to it. Being interested in the solidarity of the social body as if it were an indivisible unity. And philosophy and narrative need to collaborate in order for this goal to be achieved. Rorty. but when we pose the operation of discarding and setting aside on the real field of power it can only be understood as the preventive deployment of force.75 Ultimately.

For such reasons. of the normalization process which made them the good citizens they are. as well as of political or ethical thrust. From this perspective. A puppy. As Derrida writes. Jean Hyppolite added: ‘That said. inoffensive. in his resistance to theory. Both from a political and a philosophical point of view. during a symposium in the United States we were both participating in. Rorty can preserve its sovereignty and its grip on us. It is mandatory to avoid the production of the traumatic awareness that the normality which we live – the ‘we’ to which literature should reduce any ‘other’ – is radically contingent and unconditionally revocable. it is vital to condemn deconstruction with a double privacy: privacy to prevent disjointment of the public space. where I was going.’ I think I answered him more or less like this: ‘If I saw clearly. I really don’t see where you are going.78 . He can make the metaphysical norms outlive its demise. and beforehand. By circumventing tradition.126 The Domestication of Derrida Rorty’s fear of deconstruction and critique. socio-cultural norms. it is easy to recognize the liberal disapproval for an ethics committed to increasing the chance of events explosive enough to transgress the grammar we are now. Rorty’s privatization of deconstruction eventually appears as a powerful attempt to domesticate Derrida and to make him pacific. It was in 1966. To turn a monster into a pet. philosophical norms.77 What Rorty fears the most is the monstrosity of critique: the discursive monsters produced by deconstruction might force the people to become aware of the history of normality. they have a history – any appearance of monstrosity in this domain allows an analysis of the history of the norms’. the fear of the unpredictable makes him create protective barriers that ensure the security of his home. And when such a happy ending cannot be guaranteed. He needs to have assurance that at the end of the day he will return to the exact same form of life from where he moved in the morning. I really think I would not take even one more step to get there’. Rorty is not able – nor willing – really to contest the authority of the axiomatics organizing the present. faced by a monster ‘one may become aware of what the norm is and when this norm has a history – which is the case with discursive norms. After some friendly remarks about the talk I had just given. and privacy as isolation of the occurred outbreak in order to avert further damage.76 It looks as though Rorty endeavours in any way to shield himself from the unpredictability of deconstruction’s anarchic and responsible engagements. Rorty’s attempt to privatize Derrida eventually appears as a defensive discourse which contains the risks of deconstruction by passing it for a gratuitous play devoid of scientific or theoretical seriousness. restrained. He can ethnocentrically enjoy its benefits without caring for their grounding.

and so one cannot foresee where it will end up bringing itself (and us). instead. An unpredictable. confiding in narratives and philosophy to prevent the coming of monsters. The necessity of security is exactly what marks the infinite distance separating Rorty from Derrida. Deconstruction. which – recalling the 1996 symposium that opened United States to Jacques Derrida’s work – ‘is proclaiming itself and which can do so. in the formless. plays in blindfolds. multiple. only under the species of the nonspecies. infant. as is necessary whenever a birth is in the offing. The former is locked within the boundaries of a given theoretical and political community. and terrifying form of monstrosity’. It bids on possibilities for an existence to come. is a living being.79 . unnamable existence. mute.The Resistance of Theory 127 But a monster is always alive.


97. p. pp. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. ‘The contingency of philosophical problems’. 14. or relocate its islands. 1989). ‘Science as solidarity’. or destroy its fish’ (p. ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’. pp. p. 6 Rorty. 8 Rorty. p. 3 Heidegger. pp. 2 Rorty. pp. 18 Ibid. 1 . talks about a fitting of the scheme to the content rather than of its adequation. 1979). 1998). Kru ¨ ger (Dordrecht: Reidel. self-reference. 1991). pp. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington. ‘Keeping philosophy pure: an essay on Wittgenstein’. ‘Transcendental argument. 19–36. 47 (1973–4). Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. ‘Keeping philosophy pure’. 11. p. R. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 16 Rorty. self-reference. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’. Relativism. xxxix. in Objectivity. in Transcendental Arguments and Science. 10 Rorty. in Consequences of Pragmatism. 13 See Davidson. p. see ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’. p. Rorty uses the German word Fach to describe philosophy as an autonomous discipline (a ‘faculty’ in my own terms). ‘Transcendental argument. and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 14). 79. Irony. Hortsman and L. 12 Rorty. IN: Indiana University Press. pp. 131. Contingency. ‘Introduction: pragmatism and philosophy’. in Truth and Progress (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P. 9 See Rorty. 19. 5 See Rorty. 1982). and pragmatism’. and Truth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 5–20. 1982). 15 Davidson continues: ‘How would you organize the Pacific Ocean? Straighten out its shores. ‘Transcendental argument. Bieri. perhaps.Notes Chapter 1 See Rorty. in Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis. 20. 155. 11 See Rorty. and pragmatism’. self-reference. 22–4. p. 274–89. 4 Rorty. NJ: Princeton University Press. referring to Quine’s two dogmas of empiricism. 77–103. p. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 73–94. p. 14 Actually Davidson. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton. 1979). 17 Davidson. 7 See Rorty. 12. ed. and pragmatism’.

p. ed. 20–7. Irony.. 17–22. ‘The domestication of Derrida’. in Consequences of Pragmatism. Godzich and W. See also Contingency. pp. 26. self-reference. 103–9. ‘Metaphor according to Davidson and de Man’. p. and Solidarity. quoting Freud’s Inhibitions. 49. pp. 25 Rorty. 99. 7. 301– 6. 1962). ed. 34 See Plato. 21–34. p. 27 See Bloom. W. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 31 Rorty. pp. 39 Wheeler III. 33 See Nietzsche. pp. 61. Contingency. p. Volume I: The Will to Power as Art (San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. Contingency. 1989). 43 ‘Being (not entities) is something which ‘‘there is’’ only in so far as truth is. Book VII. On the Genealogy of Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ‘Dewey between Hegel and Darwin’. ‘Introduction: pragmatism and philosophy’. Irony. pp. Contingency. ‘Heidegger. 1983). Contingency. and Solidarity. and Solidarity. 514a 2–517a 7. and pragmatism’. p. 24.130 19 20 Notes Rorty. J. 34. Contingency. 42 Bloom. pp. and Solidarity. 35 Rorty. p. in Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 184. 40 Nietzsche. p. The Anxiety of Influence. 126–8. Irony. Dasenbrock (Minneapolis. 41 See Rorty. ‘Science as solidarity’. p. Bloom is here quoting Derrida’s ‘Freud and the scene of writing’. and Solidarity. p. p. pp. 47. 60. and pragmatism’. 38 See Godzich. Contingency. contingency. 272. p. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 23 Ibid. and Solidarity. 1975). 59–60. quoted (and translated directly from German) by de Man in Allegories of Reading. 44 Rorty. 45 Rorty. 37 See Rorty. 26–39. and Anxiety. Irony. 2000). in Redrawing the Lines. 110–11. in The Yale Critics. 22 Rorty. xix. Nietzsche. Arac. 21 See Rorty. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 29 Bloom. The Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rorty. Irony. . ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis.. 75. R. and Solidarity. Irony. in Truth and Progress. 1991). Irony. p. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing: an essay on Derrida’. pp. On Truth and Lie in an Extra-moral Sense. Being and Time (New York: Harper & Row. The Anxiety of Influence. 2007). And truth is only in so far and as long as Dasein is’: Heidegger. 90–2. Contingency. 12–13. 119. 24 See Rorty. pp. p. Irony. 8. and Solidarity. 80. Here Bloom is quoting Giambattista Vico’s On the Study Methods of Our Time. A Map of Misreading (Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. Martin (Minneapolis. pp. Allegories of Reading (Yale: Yale University Press. Symptoms. 1997). 1991). 1982). 32 Rorty. 28 Bloom. pp. p. ‘Transcendental argument. 26 Rorty. p. 30 Ibid. See de Man. 36 Heidegger. 119–31.

51 Rorty. ‘Diffe ´rance’. p. 45–51. contingency. and play in the discourse of human sciences’. ‘Derrida on language. 1981). p.Notes 46 47 131 Ibid. p. p. 96. 7). ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 48 Besides ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 67. 38–9. Derrida is here quoting a passage from Kafka’s diaries. being. p. in Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1998). 108. 75 See Hartman. 65 ‘Blind tactics’ is one of the ways – the other being ‘empirical wandering’ – in which Derrida describes the mode of the thought of diffe ´ rance (‘Diffe ´rance’. and pragmatism’. 57 Rorty. 74(11) (1977). 2001). ‘Plato’s pharmacy’. 62 Rorty. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 61 Derrida. 26–7. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. p. Rorty. 27. 98. ‘Professionalized philosophy and transcendentalist culture’. p. 74 Derrida. 216. p. p. p.. IL: Northwestern University Press. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. p. 93. 101. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 64 This is done with a Foucauldian erudition by Jean Stengers and Anne van Neck in Masturbation: The History of a Great Terror (New York: Palgrave. 54 Rorty. 68 Derrida. 59 See Derrida. p. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 673–81. ‘Plato’s pharmacy’. p. Saving the Text: Literature. and abnormal philosophy’. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 678. 128. p. see Rorty’s ‘Derrida on language. . p. 70 Rorty. ‘Metaphor according to Davidson and de Man’. ‘Diffe ´rance’. ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. 56 Rorty. 63 Rorty. 272. 1982). in Margins of Philosophy. 55 Derrida. ‘Speech and phenomena: introduction to the problem of signs in Husserl’s phenomenology’. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. p. 677. 49 Derrida. in Consequences of Pragmatism. 84. pp. Derrida. 106. 128. in Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 58 Derrida. ‘Structure. ‘Ends of Man’. 53 Heidegger. being. 1978). p. 60 Wheeler III. in Essays on Heidegger and Others. p. ‘Heidegger. 72 Rorty. 137. 87. 67 Rorty. Of Grammatology. pp. 73 Derrida. 279. being. 29. 66 See Derrida. 104. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 1973). 52 Derrida. Philosophy (Baltimore. p. p. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. in Dissemination (Chicago: Chicago University Press. 71 Rorty. The Journal of Philosophy. p. ‘Derrida on language. and abnormal philosophy’. p. Of Grammatology. pp. ‘Plato’s pharmacy’. 50 Derrida. 95. and abnormal philosophy’. 105. in Speech and Phenomena (Evanston. p. sign. 69 Rorty. 94. pp. 1981). Of Grammatology (Baltimore. p. 14.

1987). Irony. p. and Solidarity. See Rorty. ‘Envois’. p. in On Time and Being (New York: Harper & Row. 126–7. note 12. Irony.. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 50) and a couple of times in Essays on Heidegger and Others. p. ‘Envois’. in a transparent coffin. 27. under glass. 17. Contingency. p. ‘Is Derrida a transcendental philosopher?’. 2000). 285. 18. p. in Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge: CUP. among hundreds of displayed reproductions. in Essays on Heidegger and Others. 81 Derrida. 80 Ibid. but that did not prevent me from feeling that right near me Jonathan and Cynthia were observing me obliquely. 82 Derrida and Ferraris. p. ‘Envois’. 83 See Derrida. I saw nothing else. ‘Time and being’. NY: Cornell University Press. in The Post Card (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1991). 26. 29. 86. 1 . ‘I have the taste for the secret’. being. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 4 See Rorty. p. 77 Derrida. where laid out. Contingency. As if they were spying on me in order to finish the effects of a spectacle they had staged (they have just married more or less)’: Derrida. 3 Culler. p. 86 Ibid. pp. 5. 119. ‘Derrida on language. 128. Chapter 2 Rorty. 1982).132 76 Notes Rorty. and Solidarity. p. Heidegger’s sentence can function as the slogan for the circumvention of philosophy only by artfully isolating it from its context. p. Irony. On the basis of Rorty’s own account of cultural history as a succession of redescriptions. p. ‘I have the taste for the secret’. 1987). ‘Envois’. 79 Rorty. p. On Deconstruction (Ithaca. 681. 89 Derrida and Ferraris. 24. The Instant of My Death (Stanford. The same quotation returns in Consequences of Pragmatism (p. p. 84 Derrida and Ferraris. CA: Stanford University Press. note 1. 90 Heidegger. 28. this card had to jump out at me. ‘I have the taste for the secret’. and Solidarity. ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. 87 See Blanchot. 1972). p. 131. 88 See Derrida. 21. the table rather. it is hard to understand what would make an etymology ‘fake’. 2 ‘Jonathan and Cynthia were standing near me next to the glass case. Contingency. 2001). ‘Envois’. 97. sign. and abnormal philosophy’. p. 85 Rorty. p. 35. 78 See Derrida. p. in A Taste for the Secret (Cambridge: Polity. watching me look. ‘Structure. in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and play’.

‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’. pp. The Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge. 2001). pp. CA: Stanford University Press. p. 14 Rorty. 105. 124. MN: University of Minnesota Press. Gasche ´ ‘tries to situate Derrida in terms of (a particular reading of) ‘‘the’’ philosophical tradition. Relativism. in Legislations (London: Verso. and specifically in terms of a particularly powerful modern inflection of that tradition in terms of reflection’ (p. 102. 125. 119–20 and ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. After reading Bennington. 19 See Derrida and Ferraris. 16 Derrida. 12 Davidson. p. ‘I have the taste for the secret’. 1982). 1993). 748–68. 11–60. According to Bennington. ‘An idea of Flaubert: ‘‘Plato’s letter’’ ’. 1989). in Objectivity. 1991). 1994). 99(4) (September 1984). the one that radicalizes the mirroring to the point of breaking (with) it. 1989). One of the problems connected with this approach is that it presupposes the very idea of linear history that Derrida has contested. ‘Is Derrida a transcendental philosopher?’. ‘Is Derrida a transcendental philosopher?’. one wonders if Rorty and Gasche ´ are so distant after all: they both produce a history of mirrors in which Derrida would play the role of the last man. 102. 15 See Derrida and Ferraris. 76–7. 1986). 124. pp.. 21). in Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 18 Derrida. 20). ‘I have the taste for the secret’. Gasche ´ introduces the expression ‘theoretical ascetism’ to discuss Ernst Tugendhat’s critique of . The Time That Remains (Stanford. 1986). 17 Kearney. MLN. pp. and Truth (Cambridge: CUP. 6 Norris. p. p. Bennington suggests in fact that Gasche ´’s contextualization of Derrida ends up thinking history as filiation: first there was Descartes. quoted by Rorty in ‘Is natural science a natural kind?’. 62–3. p. pp. 10 Rorty. 9. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. 50. Bennington. MA: Harvard University Press. Irony. The Tain of The Mirror. p. ‘Circumfession’. p. then Kant. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 1989).Notes 5 133 Rorty. 62. 20 See Gasche ´. 7 See Gasche ´. then the very important Hegel and eventually Derrida (p. p. p. Contingency. 2005). 11 Ibid. in A Taste for the Secret (Cambridge: Polity. 16. then the two lesser-known Fitche and Schelling. ‘Deconstruction and the philosophers (the very idea)’. pp. p. ‘Philosophy as not just a ‘‘kind of writing’’: Derrida and the claim of reason’. Derrida and G. in Redrawing the Lines (Minneapolis. ‘Metaphor according to Davidson and de Man’. 8 Rorty. see Bennington. 117. 47 (1973–4). p. p. 192. p. 13 Wheeler III. For a detailed critical account of Gasche ´’s project and an indispensable discussion of some interpretations of Derrida in the mid-1980s. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. and Solidarity (Cambridge: CUP. in J. Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. in Redrawing the Lines (Minneapolis. 122–3. 9 Agamben. 5. Emphasis added. Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers (Manchester: Manchester University Press.

919–30. 1997). pp. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. love my ombre. CT: Yale University Press. See Derrida. 23 Rorty. politics’. 35 See Derrida. They are both naturalized legal fictions. 34 See Husserl. p. ‘Love me. p. MA: MIT Press. pp. 25 Ibid. 1979). ‘White mythology’. Contingency. Spurs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. La svolta testuale (Milan: Unicopli. Gasche ´ concludes that Tugendhat’s position is ‘self-defeating’. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. Carroll. hospitality. IL: Northwestern University Press. 920. p. and pragmatism’. 40 Rorty. 93. MLN. p. CA: Stanford University Press. 36 Ju ¨ rgen Habermas has described. For a study on Derrida’s ‘NostAlgeria’ see D. 120. p. Allegories of Reading (New Haven. 1998). Rorty of course is also defending himself and his Derrida from Gasche ´. pp. NJ: Princeton University Press. Contingency. Diacritics. Derrida is here quoting a passage from Anatole France’s Garden of Epicurus. ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. 1982). 213. 94(5) (December 1979). . 38. 38 See Rorty. Derrida in fact affirms that that which Joyce argued on the topic of paternity is also true for motherhood. 22 See Chakravorty Spivak. p. 1979). pp. p. 21 Derrida. and Solidarity. 30 ‘Renvois d’ailleurs /Echoes from Elsewhere’ is the bilingual title of the conference that originated Monolingualism of the Other. pp. 14(4) (Winter 1984). Monolingualism of the Other (Stanford. p. p. p. ‘Transcendental argument. Rorty’s philosophy as a Lebensphilosophie in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton. self-reference. ‘White mythology’. In doing so. in Transcendental Arguments and Science (Dordrecht: Reidel. Politics of Friendship (London: Verso. Irony. ‘Autobiography as de-facement’. 37 See Ferraris. Elle’. 211. 205. 1. 27 Rorty. 1970). ‘White mythology: metaphor in the text of philosophy’. 210. 17. 3–59. 1979). p. 29 But of course neither is the ‘actual’ mother really a natural mother. p. 93.134 Notes reflection. 19–36. in Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (Evanston. 802–27. p. MLN. 28 Derrida. p. 12. p. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 121(4) (2006). Irony. p. 32 Rorty.. 123– 7. 39 de Man. 33 Derrida. 1987). 6. and Solidarity. 24 See de Man. 1986). ‘ ‘‘Remains’’ of Algeria: justice. from a different perspective and with different goals. 41 Rorty. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 1981). 127. 31 Derrida. 104. 26 See Derrida. 77. Rorty defends Tugendhat from Gasche ´ in ‘Is Derrida a transcendental philosopher?’. ‘Envois’.

D. NY: Cornell University Press. p. 54 Ibid. ‘Structure. pp. 45 Guignon and Hiley. ed. 59 Rorty. 334. ‘On a newly arisen apocalyptic tone in philosophy’. p. 2003). Hiley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Guignon and D. p. 96. 1978). 174. pp. 62 Norris. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. genealogy. A. p.Notes 42 135 Bennington. The Crisis of European Sciences. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. p. ‘Nietzsche. ed. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. Fenves (Baltimore. in Ghostly Demarcations. ‘Envois’. p. ‘Philosophy as not just a ‘‘kind of writing’’ ’. Practice. 61 See Bell. 13. sign. 48 Derrida. p. 50 See Derrida. 34. 58 Gasche ´. 31–63. Bennington. 1992). 281. 1999). ‘Dewey between Hegel and Darwin’. 56 Derrida. Of Grammatology (Baltimore. p. p. 1977). C. 111. 57 Husserl. p. 52 I think that the ‘perhaps’ which breaks the rhythm of Foucault’s announcement has been too often overlooked. ‘Derridabase’. in Ethics in Danger. 1998). 53 Derrida. 1998). pp. 283–300. ‘Richard Rorty and contemporary philosophy’. It would be interesting to start from this ‘perhaps’ a rereading of the relationship between Foucault’s ontology of the present and Derrida’s politics of the ‘to come’. 44 Rorty. Bouchard (Ithaca.. 32. 51 See Derrida. M. in Truth and Progress (Cambridge: CUP. The Tain of the Mirror. ‘Envois’. Contingency. p. Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ‘Derrida and the philosophical’. 43 Ibid. in Language. 55 Derrida. p. ‘Cogito and the history of madness’. 49 See Foucault. and Solidarity. in J. 58. Roberts (Albany. Sprinker (London: Verso. 33. and play’. E. 122. in Writing and Difference. ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’. 1993). 63 See Rorty. p. p. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Derrida and G. 60 Jameson. 161. in Philosophy as Cultural Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. and his ‘Wittgenstein and the linguistic turn’. ‘Derridabase’. and history’. Scott and P. NY: State University of New York Press. in Truth and Progress. Dallery. in Raising the Tone of Philosophy. 17. ‘Marx’s purloined letter’. 281. p. 292. 2007). in Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. in Richard Rorty. 117–71. P. p. 191. ‘Rorty on Derrida: a discourse of simulated moderation’. . 47. ed. ed. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. CounterMemory. 46 See Bennington. 288. 47 See Rorty. 1993). Irony. C. ed. p.

Kerrigan (Baltimore. 46–50. note 10. Davidson and truth’. ‘On not circumventing the quasi-transcendental’. Relativism. ‘Wittgenstein and the linguistic turn’. 66 Rorty. pp. 67 Rorty. ed. and Solidarity against Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge. Irony. 81. pp. ‘On not circumventing the quasi-transcendental: the case of Rorty and Derrida’. ‘Plato’s pharmacy’. 74 See J. Mouffe (New York: Routledge. in Deconstruction and Pragmatism. 81 Derrida. pp. 27–8. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’. p. ‘To speculate – on ‘‘Freud’’ ’. p. 164. in Working Through Derrida. Madison (Evanston. given in Paris (2002) and in Irvine (2003). Davidson and truth’. . 1984). 79 See Foucault. ‘Derridabase’. 75 In a quite merciless move. 2000). 1990). parasitisms. ‘Pragmatism. p. as promised in a footnote in Rogues. pp. An Introduction (New York: Pantheon Books. J. 14. note 9. pp. 80 I am grateful to R. one could set up Rorty’s Contingency. newisms. p.136 64 Notes See Rorty. ed. 264. p. in Dissemination (Chicago: Chicago University Press. p. Derrida elaborates the deconstruction of sovereignty which is already at work in Rogues. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’. pp. 1981). 1996). and Truth. 279. ‘Pragmatism. 156. Nietzsche. in Truth and Progress. in The Post Card. IL: Northwestern University Press. in Objectivity. G. John Williams for letting me consult his notes of this last seminar by Derrida. 1993). 128. 72 See Husserl. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (New York: Collier. 54–68. 164. 1978). in Deconstruction and Pragmatism. p. ‘My chances/Mes chances: a rendezvous with some Epicurean stereophonies’. 82 See Bennington. 69 See Heidegger. 1967). ed. 147–69. ‘Pragmatism. 71 Rorty. p. The History of Sexuality. 83 Derrida. 77 Caputo. 427–40. An account of the similarities between Rorty’s irony and Foucault’s care of the self would of course deserve more attention. Interrupting Derrida (New York: Routledge. Smith and W. see my interview with Jean Luc-Nancy (‘Philosophy as chance’) in Critical Inquiry. 76 See Rorty. 78 Derrida. postisms. 68 Bennington. 122. 33(2) (Winter 2007). p. Davidson and truth’. For some quick remarks on the relation between Agamben and Derrida. C. p. Caputo. ‘Some statements and truisms about neologisms. The most original part of the seminar seems to be the one in which Derrida reads Agamben’s distinction between bios and zoe ´ . 138. 70 See Derrida. D. 1991). 45. Volume I: The Will to Power as Art (San Francisco: Harper & Row. 65 Rorty. ed. 126–7. In this seminar. 73 Derrida. p. and other small seismisms’. in The States of ‘Theory’. in Taking Chances. ‘Hilary Putnam and the relativist menace’. I will apply what Derrida says about Freud’s declared avoidance of Nietzsche and philosophy to Rorty.

Deconstruction and Pragmatism (New York: Routledge. 1977). 18 See Derrida. . Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 13. p. 83–112. pp. ‘Mochlos. pp. p. 41. p.. 84 See Caputo. and history’. 1992).Notes 137 Carroll (New York: Routledge. and Solidarity (Cambridge: CUP. in Truth and Progress. ‘On not circumventing the quasi-transcendental’. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 1999). Irony. Contingency. p. p. 1989).). pp. Contingency. 73–95. 1989). ‘Is truth a goal of inquiry?’.. 129–39.). 1991). ‘Trotsky and the wild orchids’. Chapter 3 1 Foucault. pp. 307–26. Counter-Memory. CA: Stanford University Press. 13 Rorty. 1993). in Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis. 16 Ibid. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’. p. pp. in Truth and Progress (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 98. 77. 1999). ‘Marxism without Marxism’. 83–7. pp. 7 See Rorty. Irony. or the conflict of the faculties’. p. 18. genealogy. 86 See Bennington. Contingency. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. 19 Ibid. pp. and Solidarity. 157. 1998). Irony. 1982). 15 Rorty. Emphasis added. p. 8 Rorty. 84. 141–2. 268–79. in The Post Card (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 87. 2004). 77–88. 160. in Eyes of the University. 2 Rorty. 12 See Rorty. and Solidarity. ‘Habermas.. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. and the functions of philosophy’. in Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin. 6 See Eagleton. 1999). 93. 15. p. ‘Philosophy as a kind of writing’. pp. 4 Rorty. 5 Ibid. in Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 17 Derrida. Sprinker (ed. 1996). in Language. pp. 17. ‘De Man and the American Cultural Left’. Derrida. pp. 85 See also Derrida’s comments on Gasche ´ and the quasi-transcendental in his interview with Derek Attridge in Acts of Literature (New York: Routledge. 3 See Rorty. and Derrida. 14 See Rorty. 11 Rorty. Practice (Ithaca. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 3–20. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’. Achieving Our Country (Cambridge. NY: Cornell University Press. p. Mouffe (ed. ‘Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism’. in Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy 2 (Stanford. ‘Envois’. both in C. p. in M. p. 10 See Rorty. 125. p. ‘The principle of reason’. ‘Nietzsche. MA: Harvard University Press. 70–2. Ghostly Demarcations (London: Verso. ‘Derridabase’. pp. 129–30. 9 Derrida. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis.

A. 38 Butler. p. p. 205. 37 Derrida. MA: Blackwell. 236–52. 217. in The Politics of Truth S. 208. MA: Belknap Press. 32 Butler. 36 See Foucault. 34 See Spivak. ‘The principle of reason’. 27 See Kant. p. p. 29–37. Translation slightly modified. in Selected Writings. CA: Stanford University Press. 1979). The Conflict of the Faculties. 1998) and Immunitas: Protezione e negazione della vita (Turin: Einaudi.. p. ‘Mochlos’. pp. 35 Butler. semiotic. 33 Foucault. P. 2002). Practice. ‘What is an author?’. ed. Esposito’s important Communitas: Origine e destino della comunita ` (Turin: Einaudi. 221. ‘What is critique?’. 2007) pp. ‘What is critique?’. p. without even mentioning the economic regulation that allows certain surplus value – through the channel of private foundations. in The Political. ed. pp. ‘Critique of violence’. 29 ‘In the United States. These in turn are related to history. ‘Sensus communis’. On the Genealogy of Morality (Cambridge: CUP. in Language. 145. Butler does a great job in pointing out the relation between the fiction of critiques and the genealogic practice. 25 Kant. 204. 22 Ibid. 28 Derrida. p. p. especially those of the Navy. ‘What is critique? An essay on Foucault’s virtue’. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. p. p. 30 Nietzsche. or anthropological investigations. in Judging Lyotard. can very rationally subsidize linguistic. Jennings (Cambridge. psychoanalysis. see also R. ‘What is critique? An essay on Foucault’s virtue’. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. p. D. Bullock and M. Ingram (Malden. political science. for example (and it is not just one example among the others). . p. Volume 1. ed. 44. 21 Foucault. and so forth’. 40 See Benjamin. Counter-Memory. 141–2. The Conflict of the Faculties. 43. M. 2002). p. 98. ‘The university without condition’. S. ‘What is critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue’. we also know that military programs. 15. Der Streit Der Fakulta ¨ ten (New York: Abaris Books. 1–25. 47–8. literature. pp. 2004). 2007). 31 See Derrida. 24 Ibid.) (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). 2007). 2002). pp. 113–38. ‘Mochlos’. p. 47. 110. ‘The university without conditions’. 41 See Lyotard. 1992). 1913– 1926. 97. hermeneutics. 39 Derrida. pp. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (New York: Methuen. in The Politics of Truth. ‘What is Aufkla ¨ rung’. ed. in Without Alibi.138 20 Notes See Kant.. 222. 96. 23 Derrida. Ibid. 26 Derrida. Lotringer (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Kamuf (Stanford. 23–9. Lotringer (ed. 1987).. law. ‘Mochlos’. pp. Benjamin (New York: Routledge. ed. p. among others – to sustain research or creative projects that are not immediately or apparently profitable.

204–5 47 Derrida. 2007). in Selected Writings: Volume 4. . The Inoperative Community (Minneapolis. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington. 59–73. 46 See Derrida. ‘The university without condition’. 86. 2003). 159–65. Fritsch’s The Promise of Memory: History and Politics in Marx. pp. 242. 59 Ibid. in Acts of Religion. 50 On this point the obvious reference is to the remarkably ‘GramscianDerridian’Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso. pp. 103–56. pp. Benjamin. 89. 2001) by E. 52 Foucault. NY: State University of New York Press. p. 306. 236. in Essays on Heidegger and Others. 1–20. See also Laclau’s review of Contingency. p. in The Taste for the Secret (Cambridge: Polity. 87. Irony. and Solidarity. ‘The university without condition’ was introduced by a warm and wry welcome by Rorty. 110–11. W. MA: Belknap Press. p. pp. 2005). Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews. 42. pp.. Irony. 56 As we can read in Peggy Kamuf’s preface to Derrida’s Without Alibi. p. See also M. The Politics of Friendship (London: Verso. pp. See Benjamin. 2001). Translation slightly modified. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (New York: Zone Books. ed. 62 See Rorty. ‘Community and its paradoxes: Richard Rorty’s ‘‘liberal utopia’’ ’. 1991). MN: University of Minnesota Press. 38. 60 Ibid. 389–400. 58 See Rorty. Achieving Our Country. CA: Stanford University Press. IN: Indiana University Press. 22. ‘The principle of reason’. 43–70 (‘Myth interrupted’). 152. ed. who was at the time Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Stanford. 91. ‘Force of law: the ‘‘mystical foundation of authority’’ ’. ‘What is critique?’. 51–2. 48 See Nancy. in Emancipation(s) (London: Verso. 54 Heidegger. pp. E. H. ‘The principle of reason’. 153. Philosophy & Social Criticism. pp. 53 Derrida. 43 See Caputo. 45 Derrida. ‘Habermas and Lyotard on postmodernity’. p. ‘Beyond aestheticism: Derrida’s responsible anarchy’. ed. 1999). Mouffe. 1997).. p. Contingency. 51 Here I can only obliquely allude to the similarity between Derrida’s deconstruction of actuality and Benjamin’s messianic materialism as it appears in ‘On the concept of history’ (which I quoted as an epigraph of this section). G. p. Anidjar (New York: Routledge 2002). 27(3) (2001).Notes 42 139 Derrida and Ferraris. 57 See Agamben. ‘Community and its paradoxes: Richard Rorty’s ‘‘liberal utopia’’ ’. 55 Derrida. 1938– 1940. p. pp. p. ‘Derrida’s deconstruction of authority’. Rottenberg (Stanford. p. and Solidarity. and Derrida (Albany. ‘A taste for the secret’. Jennings (Cambridge. ‘The university without condition’. pp. 1982). 44 See Derrida. ‘On the concept of history’. 61 Rorty. p. 63 See Laclau. p. Eiland and M. 164–5. 106–23. pp. 2002). Laclau and C. Research in Phenomenology 18 (1988). Newman. 49 Derrida.

‘Upping the ante: deconstruction as parodic practice’. p. newisms. in Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin. tried to distinguish between a parodic practice which ‘under the pretext of disconcerting. ‘Some statements and truisms about neologisms. plays the game of the established order’ and an other which would effectively deconstruct it. 1999). 2000). 1993). in Points . 1974–1994. 72 See Hardt and Negri. ed. A. 69 See Derrida. ‘The resistance to theory’. 75–80. in Available Light (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 76 Derrida and Ferraris. see S. D. pp. 67 In the famous 1968 Ce ´risy-la-Salle decade on ‘Nietzsche aujourd’hui’ Derrida. 66 See Geertz. 1990). 93. p. 29. For an account of the relation between deconstruction and parody. 78 Derrida. 46–7. 79 Derrida. 99. p. Relativism. in Objectivity. 1994). 81–4. and play’. . sign. Rorty. pp. 75 Hardt and Negri. . pp. ‘De Man and the American Cultural Left’. 1986). in Deconstruction Is/In America. p. CA: Stanford University Press. ‘I have a taste for the secret’. Achieving Our Country. parasitisms. Interviews. 77 See Derrida. postisms. Godzich (Minneapolis. pp. Derrida and G. pp. 217. in Objectivity. ‘Structure. 129–39. Carroll (New York: Columbia University Press. MN: University of Minnesota Press. 385–6. 1994). 1978). 60–7. and Truth. 68–73. . in J. Relativism. p. ed. MN: University of Minnesota Press. in The States of ‘Theory’. ‘The priority of democracy to philosophy’. 293. commenting on Klossowski’s lecture. 3–6. 1991). 190. 1995). in Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. Bennington. pp. p. ‘A spectre in haunting the intellectuals: Derrida on Marx’. 235–8. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis. ‘Solidarity or objectivity?’. ‘Passages – from traumatism to promise’. 68 Rorty. and Truth (Cambridge: CUP. ed. Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ‘The uses of diversity’. E. Labor of Dionysus. 70 Rorty. Specters of Marx (New York: Routledge. Haverkamp (New York: New York University Press. p. Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form (Minneapolis. in The Resistance to Theory.140 64 65 Notes See Rorty. ‘Derridabase’. pp. 71 See Rorty. 1995). pp. 73 See de Man. W. and other small seismisms’. ed. 74 Bennington. 238. Weber. Weber (Stanford. Further reference will be given in the main body of the text in parenthesis.

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Keith AnsellPearson. New York: Faber & Faber. Chantal (ed. trans. Mary J. New York: Collier. 2001. Laclau. Husserl. Friedrich Wilhelm. Todd. Carol Diethe. London: Verso. —— . Nietzsche. 2007. Judging Lyotard. Richard. Immanuel. Gregor. trans. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. . R. Lyotard. trans. Boyce Gibson. New York: Routledge. On the Genealogy of Morality. ‘Sensus communis’. trans. ‘Philosophy as not just a ‘‘kind of writing’’. Milan. Volume I: The Will to Power as Art. London: Verso. On Time and Being. 1997. 1996. in Andrew Benjamin (ed. London: Verso. —— . Deconstruction. IL: Northwestern University Press. trans.) Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx. Minneapolis. Nietzsche. ‘Marx’s purloined letter’ in Michael Sprinker (ed. 2007.). Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. Smith. Ernesto. MA: Harvard University Press. J. Christopher. W.’ In Emancipation(s). 27(3). An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Redrawing the Lines: Analytic Philosophy. Peter Connor. University Park. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Jean-Franc ¸ ois. Michael Holland and Simona Sawhney. 1987. in Sylve ` re Lotringer (ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1–20. Chantal. Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers. 1999. Michael Henry Heim. Kant. May. Newman. New York: Abaris Books. Edmund. Klossowski. ‘Derrida’s deconstruction of authority. 1967.’ Philosophy & Social Criticism. David Farrell Krell. 1977. Daniel W. Der Streit Der Fakulta ¨ ten. Lisa Garbus. New York: Routledge.’ in Reed Way Dasenbrock (ed. Hillis. MN: University of Minnesota Press. Fredric. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. 1991. Kearney. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Miller. ‘What is Aufkla ¨ rung?’. Laclau. and Literary Theory. trans. Norris. Evanston. —— . Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Minneapolis. —— .). trans. 1970. The Conflict of the Faculties. Mouffe. ed. 1984. Jameson. 1972. trans. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel. The Inoperative Community. 1989. Derrida. 1991. 2001. New York: Harper & Row. 1994. Pierre. MN: University of Minnesota Press.Bibliography 145 —— . Manchester: Manchester University Press. 1999. Ernesto and Mouffe. ‘The critic as host’. David Carr. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ‘Community and its paradoxes: Richard Rorty’s ‘‘Liberal Utopia’’.). 1979. 3(3) 439–47. Joan Stambaugh. 1972. Saul. trans. 1992. Jean-Luc. Critical Inquiry. The Politics of Truth. Deconstruction and Pragmatism.). The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism. Kundera. 2007. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. Cambridge. Nancy.

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Harold 15–20.Index A Taste for the Secret (Derrida) 43 Achieving Our Country (Rorty) 94. 36–7. 58–9. 66 ‘Derridadaism’ 45 ‘Derrida’s deconstruction of authority’ (Newman) 111 Descartes. 119. 101. 74 ‘De Man and the American Cultural Left’ (Rorty) 97 De Man.51 Bennington. 34 Bonaparte. Donald 2. The (Kant) 95. 126. Geoffrey 64–6. 124–6 Critique of Pure Reason (Kant) 2 ‘Critique of violence’ (Benjamin) 110 Culler. John 73 diffe ´ rance 31–2. Irony and Solidarity (Rorty) 1. 3. 121–2. 39 autobiographies 54 autochthonous 57 Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Charles 14 Dasein 19. 23. 36 eidetic variation 78–9 . 50. Maurice 41 Bloom. 24–8. Jonathan 45–6 Darwin.38 Caputo. 80 Davidson. Terry 91 ego 34. 48. 83–5. John 80. 54. 63. 30. 52. 23. 103–5 Consequences of Pragmatism (Rorty) 66. 66 ‘come’ 114 Conflict of the Faculties. 121 contingent 77 Cratylus (Plato) 41 critique 107–8. 75. 49. 95 Eagleton. 63 Anxiety of Influence. 115. 69. 67. 37. 138n. 35. 13. 46. 27. 112. Paul 21–2. 33. 11–12. 139n. 72 Contingency. 14. The (Bloom) 15 apocalypse 69 aporia 71–2 Aristotle 37. 45–53. 19. 116. Rudolf 74 Cartesian Meditations (Husserl) 34 Ce ´risy-la-Salle encounter 68 Circumfession (Derrida) 43. 63 deconstruction 1. 112.80. R. 43. 62–3. 139n. Giorgio 47 Algeria 56–7 Allegories of Reading (De Man) 22.47 ‘Deconstruction and circumvention’ (Rorty) 72 democracy 123–4 ‘Derrida and the Philosophical Tradition’ (Rorty) 65 ‘Derridabase’ (Bennington) 64. 91–4. 75. 111 Carnap. 121 actuality 113 Agamben. 20. 136n. 3–4. 47–9 Being and Time (Heidegger) 42 Benjamin. 77 bricolage 36 Butler. The (Heidegger) 8 Being 7–8. 82. 49. 109–14. Judith 107–8. 96–8. Napoleon 41 Boyce Gibson. Rene ´ 15 Dewey. 124 ‘Beyond aestheticism: Derrida’s responsible anarchy’ (Caputo) 111 Blanchot. W. 115–16. 88–9. 118–19. Walter 110.

133–4n. 24–9. Frederic 72 jetty 83–4 Kamuf. 81. David 66 Hartman. 72 Heidegger. 99–107. 69. Jean-Luc 68 Negri. Philippe 68 language 17–18. 62–3 metaphysics 35. 53–6. 34. 50. 48. 22. 24–5. 117–18 Hardt. Michel 68. 99–102. 70. 58–9. 123 Godzich. 42–3 idea 77 Ideas I (Husserl) 77. 40–1. 70. 41–4. 93 mind 9–10 mochlos 109.29 France. 83–4 essentialism 98 Faculty of Philosophy. 118–19. Rodolphe 3. Saul 111 Nietzsche. Immanuel 2. 74 ‘Myth of the Cave’ (Socrates) 18 Nancy. 18–21. the 104 ‘Envois’ (Derrida) 37–8. A (Bloom) 15. 111. Pierre 18 knowledge 107 Labor of Dionysus (Negri/Hardt) 123 Laclau. 53. Karl 65. 75. Sigmund 40 Gasche ´ . 37. 34. 118 Monolingualism of the Other (Derrida) 53. 29. 62–4. Gustave 52 Foucault. 43–5. 90–1. 60. Michael 123. Ernesto 118 Lacoue-Labarthe. 87. 77–80 . 56. 61. 62. 71. 46–7. 134n. 61. Tony 123. Geoffrey 35. 21. 132n. 25. 92–3 hermeneutics 106 historicists 116 History of Madness. Friedrich Wilhelm 17–19. 34. 121. 91. 81. 52 Feuerbach. 125 Harley. 45 Hegel. 81. 43–4. 79 ideation 77–8 In Search of Lost Time (Proust) 25 intuition 9 irony 10. Edmund 30. Peggy 139n. 111.20 God 35.2 erection 81. 23. 12–13. 45 Ferraris. 90–1. William 73 Jameson. 95. Martin 7–8. 107 engineers 36 Enlightenment. 81 masturbation 31–3 metaphors 19–24. 58. 72. 71.52. The (Foucault) 68 Howe. 87. 48. 83.56 Kant. 116–17. 93. 22 Lebensphilosophie 62 liberalism 123–6 ‘life-world’ 71 logic 63 logocentrism 98 Lyotard. 7–8. 71. 91–2. 34 Marx. University of Rome 99–100 femininity 36. 48. 105–9. Maurizio 51. 50. Anatole 6 Freud. 56. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 13–15. 42. Jean-Franc ¸ ois 117–18 Map of Misreading. Wlad 20 Guignon. 113. 75. 35. Irving 98 Humanities 109. 125 New Leftists 120–1 Newman. 25. Ju ¨ rgen 4.148 Index ‘I’ 37–8. 135n. 136n. 38. Derrida and the functions of philosophy’ (Rorty) 92 Habermas. 72. Ludwig 81 ‘Fido’ 41 filiation 40 Flaubert. 47–8. 119 James. 115–16 Husserl. 37. 84.79 France 56–9. Charles 66 ‘Habermas. 75. 42. 118 Klossowski.

64. 84. 116 ‘principle of reason’ 100. 88–9 ‘quasi-transcendental’ 109 realism 10–12. Jean-Jacques 31 149 Sartre. Alfred 11. 78. 84 Tresca. Charles Sanders 74 Plato 23. 22–3. Marcel 25. The (Habermas) 4 Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein) 74 Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Rorty) 8–9. 75. 80. 93 post-Cartesian tradition 15 post-Nietzschean philosophy 117 post-structuralism 118 pragmatism 46. 74 .20 Unheimlichkeit 59 United States 95–6. 21. 88 truth 2. 25 Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. 52. 51. 97–8. 64–5. 11. 48 textual 49 The Crisis of European Sciences (Husserl) 61 theorein 75 theory 120 thinking 27 trace 47–8 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Wittgenstein) 72. 120. John 124 self-legislation 18 sexuality 35–6 socialization 117 Socrates 18. 39 sovereign power 110 Specters of Marx (Derrida) 121 Speech and Phenomena (Derrida) 30 Spivak. The (Derrida) 53–5. 93. 41. Matthew 38 Phenomenology 77–9 Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel) 13–15.29 universal hostage 59 ‘What is critique? ’ (Foucault) 109 ‘What Is Enlightenment?’ (Kant) 105 Wheeler. 30. 61. 59. 79–82. 112 ‘Plato’s pharmacy’ (Derrida) 79 Poetry 16 politics 123–5 ‘pornosophy’ 35 Post Card. Christopher 46. 113 redemption 17 relativism 10. 79. Erne ´st 53. 76. 20 Romanticism 14–16. The Will to Power as Art (Heidegger) 21 Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (Klossowski) 18 nominalists 116 Norris. Samuel 22 ‘White Mythology’ (Derrida) 60.Index Nietzsche. 108 State. Jean-Paul 89 Savonarola. 107 ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’ (Davidson) 2 Paris. 73–4 transcendence 47. Leon 88. The (Gasche ´) 46–7. 74 Pierce. 107–8 Truth and Progress (Rorty) 92–3 Tugendhat. 138n. 72–3. 133n. 12 religion 7 Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (Kant) 103 Republic (Plato) 18. 37–9. 53. 82. 65. 133–4n. 98 ‘Trotsky and the wild orchids’ (Rorty) 67.7 Tarski. Carlo 88 Trotsky. Gayatri Chakravorty 53. 22 Rousseau. 107 privacy 50–1 proletarization 96 Proust. 73 Of Grammatology (Derrida) 31 On the Genealogy of Morality (Nietzsche) 17. Girolamo 89 Searle. the 101–8 Tain of the Mirror.

117 Will to Power. 74 writing 32–6. 88. The (Heidegger) 18 Index Wittgenstein.150 wild orchids 67. 90–1. Ludwig 72. 98. 40 .

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